Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

There are certain kinds of cookies that I associate with Christmas; for me those are Anginetti Cookies, Spritz Cookies and Chocolate Crinkle Cookies.  I don’t know why I reserve making them for the holidays, they really should be made all year.  Each cookie is like the perfect bite sized soft, gooey center of a brownie.

 

 

 

Ingredients (Makes 24 cookies):
¾ cup cocoa powder
1 ½ cup white sugar
⅓ cup canola oil
3 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
160 grams (1 ½ cups) flour
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup confectioners’ sugar

In a large bowl, mix together cocoa powder, white sugar and canola oil.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, then add vanilla.  In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and salt.  Fold into the sugar mixture and stir until well combined.  The batter should resemble a thick brownie batter.  Put into refrigerator for 2-4 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Form batter into 1” balls and roll into confectioners’ sugar.  Bake on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and let sit on cookie sheet for 2 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool.

Enjoy!

Paul Dolan Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Paul Dolan Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
California – Mendocino County
14.5% ABV
$15.99
My Rating: 90 points
Costco

It can be hard finding a robust California Cabernet in the sub $20 range, but Costco has been getting in several cabs from Mendocino County that are terrific values. Big and bold, Paul Dolan has the drying tannins that pair nicely with a marbled ribeye. At this price, it’s worth stocking a few bottles for grilling steaks at home.

Deep ruby, cherry, cedar, drying tannins.

Pair with: grilled ribeye, braised short ribs, sharp cheeses

Recipe Pairing
Perfectly Seared Steakhouse Steaks

From the winemaker:
“Paul Dolan Vineyards is located in the heart of Mendocino County, Northern California, a secluded land of rich biological diversity and unique microclimates. Grapes are sourced from meticulously tended vineyards, and our balanced winemaking practices support each bottling’s expression of terroir for wines of unforgettable character.

Instant Pot Ham Hock and Lentil Soup

I’ve been trying some new recipes with lentils in my Instant Pot Duo 60, (see Instant Pot Sausage and Lentil Soup (Carraba’s Copycat) for another great lentil soup option!) and I couldn’t be happier. They are delicious, inexpensive, and my 1 year-old (who prefers most of his meals in the form of grilled cheese) loves these lentil and veggie soups. The ham bone adds savory smoked flavors; it’s a great way to use up holiday leftovers, or you can pick one up inexpensively from the grocery store.

 

Ingredients (serves 4-6):
1 tbsp. olive oil
3 carrots, cut into bite sized pieces
3 celery sprigs, diced
1 onion, diced
Ham hock
190 grams (1 cup) lentils
32 oz. chicken broth
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
⅛ tsp. garlic powder

Press sauté on Instant Pot. When display reads “Hot” add olive oil, onion, carrots and celery. Sauté until vegetables are beginning to soften, 4-6 minutes. Add ham hock, chicken broth, lentils, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Give it a quick stir and then close the lid. Press “manual” and set timer to 18 minutes. When the timer is done, let pressure release naturally before opening the lid. Stir in thawed corn until heated and serve. Enjoy!

Mano a Mano Tempranillo 2014

Mano a Mano Tempranillo 2014
Spain – Tierra de Castilla
14% ABV
$7.99
My Rating: 87 points
Costco

If you can count on only one thing from Costco, it’s that you will find some unbelievable bargains on Spanish wines. I have been impressed with most of the Spanish reds under $10, and at $7.99, this Tempranillo is a great deal. They carried the 2013 vintage of this wine in the fall of 2016, and when I went back to stock up, it was gone. I didn’t make the same mistake this year. As soon as I saw it, I grabbed a case, because I know it won’t last long. Mano a Mano is an easy drinking wine to enjoy with or without food.

Full bodied, earthy, vanilla, blackberry, with a hint of mint and drying tannins on the long finish.

Pair with: grilled meat, pork dishes, lamb, serrano ham

Recipe pairings:
Instant Pot Carnitas
Grilled Lamb Chops with Yogurt Sauce

From the winemaker:
“A hand-made wine created in the spirit of collaboration. Hand-harvested grapes are selected from the best vines in “Tierra de Castilla”, then passed on to the agile hands of our winemaker. The result is a carefully made wine: long slow fermentation is followed by gentile aging in French oak to create a balanced “tinto” with vanilla, spice, robust red fruit and a rich finish.”

Instant Pot Root Vegetable Mash

The fall weather settled in this weekend in Austin, and has me thinking All-Things-Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving dinner is the best meal of the year, hands down! With the southern tradition of frying our turkey, I am trying out some lighter side dishes, and I love that my Instant Pot Duo 60 allows me to free up some precious oven space. If you don’t already have one, you can grab a Vegetable Steamer Basket on Amazon. Root vegetables, like potatoes, parsnips and rutabaga need to be steamed outside of the cooking liquids so they don’t get dense and gummy. I also use this basket on the stove top for veggies, dumplings and pot stickers.

I’ve been making a potato-parsnip mash for years, but decided to invite a rutabaga to the party because it’s just so darn healthy. They are a member of the turnip family, so they have a bit of the bitterness a turnip has, but they are milder and balanced nicely by the sweetness of the parsnips. Did you know that rutabaga has less than HALF the calories and carbs of potatoes? Here is how they stack up –

Rutabaga – per 100 grams: 38 calories, 9 grams carbs, 2.3 grams fiber
Parsnips – per 100 grams: 75 calories, 18 grams carbs, 4.9 grams fiber
Potato – per 100 grams: 79 calories, 18 grams carbs, 1.3 grams fiber

As you can see, using a root vegetable medley (over plan potatoes) substantially reduces calories and carbs while adding a healthy dose of fiber.

Ingredients (serves 6-8):
1 rutabaga, peeled and cubed
1 large russet potato, peeled and cubed
4 parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
¼ cup milk
2 tbsp. butter
½ tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
Chives or green onions (optional garnish)

Add 1 ½ cups water and Vegetable Steamer Basket to Instant Pot. Add peeled and cut rutabaga, potato and parsnips. Close lid, press “manual” and set timer to 8 minutes. QPR after timer is done, transfer vegetables to a large bowl and add milk, butter, onion powder, salt and pepper. Mash using an electric hand mixer. Garnish with chives, if desired. Enjoy!

Best Italian Style Meatballs

I’ve made spaghetti and meatballs hundreds (thousands?) of times, but there really is something to be said for the perfect meatball. They seem easy enough, but the perfect ratio of meat to egg to breadcrumb to seasonings needs to be just right to keep them from tasting like dense little hamburgers. This recipe balances the perfect amount of ground sirloin, spice and flavor from Italian sausage, seasoned up right to simmer away in a big batch of Sunday sauce. These come out great every time.

 

 

Ingredients (makes 24 meatballs):
2 lbs. 90/10 ground sirloin
6 oz. Italian sausage, removed from casing
2 eggs
¾ cup breadcrumbs
¼ onion, grated
1 oz. parmesan cheese, grated
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
¼ tsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. canola oil (for frying)

Add all ingredients except canola oil to a large bowl. Combine with hands, being careful not to overwork. Roll into 24 equal sized meatball. Preheat a heavy bottomed or cast iron skillet on medium-low, then add oil. Working in batches, brown meatballs on all sides until a nice crust forms. Continue cooking browned meatballs in your favorite tomato sauce for at least one hour, preferably 2-3 hours. Serve with pasta. Enjoy!

Montecillo Rioja Reserva 2010

Montecillo Rioja Reserva 2010
Spain – Rioja
13.5% ABV
$9.99
My Rating: 89 points
Costco

If I’ve ever spoken to you about Costco’s wine department, you know that if I see a Rioja Reserva for under $10,  I snap it up immediately. There are some great bargain wines coming out of the Rioja region of Spain, especially if you know what to look for on the label. Riojas fall into one of four categories; Rioja (under a year aging), Crianza (2 years aging, at least 1 of which is in oak), Reserva (3 years aging, at least 1 of which is in oak) and Gran Reserva (5 years aging, at least 2 of which are in oak), and prices tend to go up the longer its aged. Many of my favorite Riojas are Reservas; they have a great oaky finish and pair well with red meat and aged cheeses.

Deep garnet, tobacco, oak, nice cherry acidity.

Pair with: lamb chops, sharp cheese

Recipe Pairing:
Grilled Lamb Chops with Yogurt Sauce

From the winemaker:
“Just fill your glass and enjoy this smooth and round wine, elaborated with Rioja’s native grapes following a century-old tradition. Aged for more than 3 years, with at least 18 months in oak barrels.
Its spicy and fruity flavors are a perfect match to cheese, red-meat dishes liked grilled lamb chops and smoked food. Serve at 64F
Fall in love, again, with an authentic Rioja”

Instant Pot Sausage and Lentil Soup (Carraba’s Copycat)

If I could pick the number one reason I love my Instant Pot Duo 60, it’s given me the confidence to try dishes I’ve never made before. I was always intimidated by lentils, but not anymore. Lentils and beans (these Charro beans are delicious!) are nearly foolproof in the Instant Pot, hearty, and very inexpensive.

I recently found myself in an airport with some time before my next flight, and headed into a Carraba’s Italian Grill for a quick bite to eat. I ordered their Sausage and Lentil Soup and immediately thought “I can make this in the Instant Pot, no problem.” Here is my copycat version of Carraba’s Sausage and Lentil Soup, and I’ll bet it cost me less to make the entire batch than I paid for one bowl at the restaurant.

Ingredients (serves 6-8):
2 slices thick cut bacon, diced
12 oz. Italian sausage, removed from casings
1 onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 carrots, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
14.5 oz. can crushed tomatoes
6 cups (48 oz.) chicken broth
1 ½ cups dried lentils (270 grams)
2 tsp. Italian seasoning blend (thyme, rosemary, oregano, basil)
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper
Optional garnish: fresh basil and grated Parmesan cheese

Press sauté on Instant Pot. When display reads “Hot” add diced bacon and sausage. Sauté until sausage is browned, 5-7 minutes. Add onion and garlic to Instant Pot, sauté for 2 minutes more. Add carrots, celery, diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, chicken broth, lentils, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper. Give it a quick stir and then close the lid. Press “manual” and set timer to 18 minutes. When the timer is done, let pressure release naturally before opening the lid. Soup can be served immediately, or let stand for a bit to continue thickening. Garnish with chopped basil and Parmesan cheese, if desired. Enjoy!

Instant Pot Ham Bone Charro Beans

The Tex-Mex places in Austin have some of the best charro beans around. Served as a side dish, or even just with chips for snacking,Mexican style charro beans have tons of savory, warm flavors. I’ve heard that making beans from scratch in the Instant Pot Duo 60 was an absolute breeze, and wondered if I could really pull off dry beans from scratch in one hour with no soaking or long cook times. I like to use a ham bone in bean recipes; the beans get completely infused with salty-porky-goodness. You can save the ham bones from big holiday meal, or some grocery store sell them separately (and fairly inexpensive). These are hands down the best beans I’ve ever had. Another Instant Pot winner!

Ingredients:
1 lb. dried pinto beans, rinsed
1 tbsp. canola oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced,
2 jalapenos, ribs and seeds removed, diced
14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
4 cups chicken broth
½ cup water
Ham bone (see note)
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cumin
1 tbsp. chopped cilantro

Note: I like to use a leftover ham bone in this recipe; the bone adds flavor to the broth and the ham bits are a nice addition. If you don’t have one, skip it and add 4 slices of diced thick cut bacon. Sauté it with the onions at the beginning an omit the canola oil. The bacon will render enough oil to sauté the veggies.

Press sauté on Instant Pot. When display reads “Hot” add oil, diced onion, minced garlic and diced jalapeno. Stir together until fragrant, approximately 2 minutes. Add beans, diced tomatoes, chicken broth, water, ham bone, salt and cumin. Press “manual” and set timer to 60 minutes. When the timer is done, let pressure release naturally before opening the lid. Remove ham bone, stir in chopped cilantro and serve. Enjoy!

Best Instant Pot Accessories of 2017!

If you’ve recently purchased an Instant Pot, you might be asking yourself the best way to get started. Join an Instant Pot Recipe Facebook group, follow a few blogs, and get cooking! The accessories that come with the Instant Pot are perfect to get started. no fancy tools needed to make the best Carnitas or Risotto you’ve ever had, but if you are looking for a deeper dive, here are some of the Best Instant Pot Accessories of 2017!

Sous Vide Immersion Circulator – I love Sous Vide style of cooking, and this model is designed specifically to clamp securely on both the 6 and 8 quart Instant Pot models. An immersion circulator creates a cooking water-bath set to a precise temperature, usually the temperature that is desired for the internal temperature of what is being cooked. For example, when cooking steak, traditionally methods (grill, broil) create somewhat of a bulls eye effect of doneness. As the outside gets exposed to very high heat, it must be removed at the exact point the inside reaches the desired temperature. With Sous Vide cooking, food is cooked evenly edge to edge with no risk of overcooking, and is juicy and flavorful.

 

 

Immersion Blender – an immersion blender is a great tool to have with an Instant Pot.  It makes blending a creamy soup, like Instant Pot Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup, whipping up a batch of apple sauce, baby food, or making blended sauces a snap, and no need to transfer hot liquids to a blender!  .

 

 

Vegetable Steamer Basket – when making vegetables in the Instant Pot, a steamer basket is a must. Keeping the veggies out of the steaming liquids maintain their flavor and keep them from getting mushy. If you haven’t tried carrots or corn on the cob in the pressure cooker yet, you don’t know what you are missing. Sweet and delicious!

 

Hiware 7 Inch Springform Pan – If you are making cheesecake, lasagna or enchilada pie in the Instant Pot, a springform pan is a must-have. This 7” pan fits the 6 qt. Instant Pot perfectly and is easy to clean.

 

 

 

Stackable Steamer Pots – stackable pans allow for different foods to be steamed simultaneously in the Instant Pot. Want to steam both fish and veggies? No problem. Making both rice and vegetables for a side dish? Easy!  These are especially handy when cooking a variety of foods for a small family or group.

 

 

 

Egg Rack – allows for cooking up to 7 eggs at the same time in the Instant Pot, evenly and within a few minutes. Each egg sits securely in its own place to eliminate rolling around and cracking.

 

 

 

Wide Rim Mesh Basket – another great option for steaming in the Instant Pot, this Mesh Basket holds the maximum amount of veggies or eggs, but requires bending or removing the handles on the pot to fit just right. It’s an easy fix, and totally worth it on this inexpensive accessory.

 

 

Instant Pot Silicone Cover – This lid fits tightly over the inner pot, is air tight and leak proof, making it a perfect accessory for storing leftover in the refrigerator or taking the inner pot on the go.

 

 

 

Instant Pot Mini Mitts – made of silicone, these mini mitts are perfect for quickly removing the hot inner pot from the Instant Pot. Since they are silicone, they are a breeze to clean.

 

 

 

Instant Pot Sealing Ring– A sealing ring comes with the Instant Pot out of the box, but they don’t last forever.   Instant Pot recommends that you change the sealing ring every 12-18 months.  Plus, the last thing you want is for one to start leaking without another one on hand. They also tend to retain some of the scent from cooking, so many people like to keep one on hand for savory dishes and one on hand for sweet dishes.

 

Instant Pot Tempered Glass Lid – Just like the name suggests, this glass lid allows you to actually see what’s in the Instant Pot when it’s covered. It’s a great tool for slow cooking, keeping warm or storing leftovers in the fridge.

 

 

Instant Pot Inner Pot – the Instant Pot comes with an inner pot, but having a second on hand allows you to quickly transfer dishes when making multiple dishes back to back. An extra inner pot also comes in handy for storing leftovers in the fridge.