Monday, July 24, 2017

Instant Pot Honey Bourbon Chicken

I'm still not a member of "the Instant Pot has changed my life" camp. But this recipe totally earned my Instant Pot's space in my kitchen. I've done hard cooked eggs many times and yes, they are perfectly done and easy to peel. But I could hardly recommend that you should buy an Instant Pot just to cook eggs. I've done a teriyaki chicken that was delicious, and similar to this recipe. I've made a couple of other recipes that we liked enough to make again. But this recipe was a total winner.

I'm still learning about the Instant Pot (IP) in general. There is a huge Facebook group, Instant Pot Community, that gives so much information and answers questions. I think that is where I first saw this recipe. Folks generally share the links to the recipes they've used. Anyway, if you have an IP, it's worth checking out the Facebook group. There are also many, many videos of people showing how they use theirs. There are also people who share their Instant Pot disasters. That's useful information, too.

Is the Instant Pot an "instant" method of cooking? Not exactly. Some things are quicker. Some take about the same length of time when you factor in the "come to pressure" time, the cooking time and the pressure release time. But what I am beginning to appreciate is that once I've put the lid on the pot, I can walk away and do the rest of the dinner prep and not think about what's cooking in the IP until I hear the timer beep. Last night, while the chicken was cooking, I made the rice on the stovetop and made salads for us and never had to remember to stir anything.

Like all cooking methods, there is typically more than one way, one recommended cooking time for most recipes. And eggs and chicken breasts come in different sizes, so there are variables. You have to do some figuring out what suits you. I like my hard cooked eggs done for 6 minutes and then do a "quick release" of the pressure, and then plunge eggs in a bowl of icy cold water. I've seen other who cook them for 8 minutes. And, there are others who do 5 minutes under pressure, 5 minutes of natural pressure release (NPR) and then quick release (QR) of remaining pressure and then 5 minutes in the ice water bath. They call that the 5-5-5 method. I just saw an Instant Pot reference chart that said eggs took 4 minutes. I know I want mine more done than that. But you might not.

I finally realized that it all depends on what you like. Just like cooking on the stovetop, we all do things differently and have different expectations of the outcome. You just need to find the way that suits you. Find some recipes that sound good to you and use them as starting places.

And I would suggest that you make a note of the cooking times you are happy with. It all starts to run together in my mind. And, when I've looked to find a recipe again, there will be a dozen of the same recipe name—but all with slight differences in ingredients and cooking times. Make sure to save the one you like in the beginning. Or, you might be like me and never find that exact one again.

Well, this honey bourbon chicken recipe suited us perfectly. I'll make it again for sure and I won't change a thing. (Unless I use a little less honey. The taste was great like it is, but I felt a little guilty for making a main dish that was sweet.) If you look up the recipe online, you'll find many versions of Honey Bourbon Chicken. But I'm posting this particular one here so that I know where I can find it the next time.

After dinner last night I put the remainder of the chicken and sauce in a quart ziptop freezer bag and put it in the freezer for later. My almost son-in-law is always asking me about freezing foods. One day I'll write more about that in general. But this recipe is one that will freeze well, partly because of all the liquid. The process of freezing pulls moisture out of food. Proper packing helps prevent that. And foods with a sauce usually freeze well because of all the extra liquid.

Please take a minute to visit the recipe I used for this. This wonderful site gives more information about freezing the ingredients ahead for IP cooking later. There are many comments from other users that are helpful, too. They ask many questions and someone usually answers.

Here is my version of their recipe. You'll notice there is NO bourbon in this recipe. According to the internet (and we know it's never wrong! Ha.) the recipe was named after a restaurant on Bourbon St.


8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 1-1/2 lbs)
a sprinkle of salt & pepper
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic (from a jar)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
1 cup honey (might try using 3/4 cup next time)

add after the pressure cooking
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon water

Place all ingredients—except cornstarch & water— in the Instant Pot, lock cover in place and turn steam nozzle to "seal."
Cook on chicken setting or manual setting for 15 minutes.
Naturally release pressure for 5 minutes, then quick release remaining pressure.
Use two forks to slightly shred chicken. (I did this carefully right in the pot.)
Set pot to Saute. Combine cornstarch and water and add to chicken mixture. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until thickened.

Makes 4 servings

We served this over brown rice. I'll confess I used a boil-in-bag rice because I needed quick and easy last night. That rice takes 10 minutes to cook—after the water comes to a boil. For the record, I started the rice immediately after I put the lid on my Instant Pot and turned the valve to "seal." The rice and the chicken were done at exactly the same time. That 10-minute rice takes considerably longer than that when you add in the time it takes for the water to boil. So, the Instant Pot is as "instant "as the nearly instant rice.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Mimi Camp Muffins

Sour Cream Blueberry Banana Muffins

Here is the muffin recipe that I promised. The one that Little Sister made during Mimi Camp. We chose this recipe because I had all of the ingredients here. No extra trip to the store required. And we chose it because smashing bananas is great fun when you're six!

The texture of these muffins is a little different than other muffins I've made. You can see that the tops are flat, not rounded as you might expect. But the taste? I ate three of them for breakfast two mornings in a row. (They were little, y'all. Don't judge.)

I saw the recipe on online. The pictures from the original source were thin, flat muffins, so it wasn't our mixing that made the difference. It's just how this recipe is supposed to be. Whatever the shape, we were happy with the flavor.

In the process of making these, Little Sister learned she had to wash her hands before she started and after cracking the eggs. She learned about measuring and leveling with the back of a knife. But when we got to the two bowls—one for the banana mixture and one for the flour—she exclaimed, "Oh! We're going to add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients." Pioneer Woman and Trisha Yearwood (her favorite TV cooks) should be proud.


1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
3 overripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/2 cups blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, use a mixer on low speed to combine butter, sugar, eggs, bananas, sour cream and vanilla.
In another bowl, whisk together flour and baking soda to combine. Gradually add the flour to the banana mixture and mix until combined.
Gently fold in blueberries.
Grease muffin tins, or use paper liners. Spoon batter into cups (about 1/4 cup each) into tins.
Bake at 350 degrees for 17-22 minutes, or until golden brown.

The recipe said it made 24 muffins. We got 22 muffins.

Our batter was almost a liquid instead of a thick batter. I went back and found the online recipe post and asked the author how she measured her flour. I am in the "gently scoop into measuring cup and level." But she said she just scooped it up out of the canister. That would give you a little more flour and a thicker batter. Next time I'll do it that way. And one day I'm measuring one cup of flour both ways and will weigh each cup to see how much difference there is. Yep, I'm a kitchen nerd like that.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Mimi Camp Highlights

She had a fishing lesson from Daddy-O and she caught three fish this year.
She baked a pineapple angel food cake all by herself to take to favorite cousins.

She baked and decorated cookies. With LOTS of sprinkles and icing.
She learned how to cut flowers for a table centerpiece. Long stems are the secret.
The cookies and flowers looked so pretty that she decided we should have a party.
Daddy-O was guest of honor at the dinner party.
She painted a mask for his special gift.

We had a girls lunch out one day and stopped by the town fountain to make a wish.
By now she was a expert at cutting flowers.
This time we made vases and delivered them to special friends.
She did a little "basement archeology" to check out the old Happy Meal prizes.
This summer she could use the mixer by herself.
She is a fan of TV cooking shows and has mad kitchen skills for a 6-year-old.
Blueberry Banana Muffins (recipe coming soon)

The photos just are only a few of the things we did. We didn't have much of a formal plan for Mimi Camp this year because of all the coming and going that preceded our week together. This might have worked out even better.

Our cookie baking session evolved into the high point of our camp—a surprise "formal" dinner in the dining room for Daddy-O. (I had only planned to bake cookies.) Tablecloth, fine china, silver tray for the sandwiches, and fresh flowers for a centerpiece. We dressed for dinner and chose Yo-Yo Ma for our music. The menu was ham sandwiches cut in triangles (so they will be fancy,) sliced cucumbers and grapes.

I would have never thought to plan this as an activity. But it was the single best thing of the week. The next morning, Little Sister looked at Daddy-O and told him, "That was the best party last night." She was right. It might have been the best party in the history of parties.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Why This Blog Has Been Quiet

1.  We made a quick weekend trip to the Rocky Mountains for a July 1 wedding. That's two-thirds of the way across the country from here.

2. We hosted a large family annual gathering at the lake for the 4th of July, a little over 24 hours after returning from the wedding.

3. The immediate family stayed at the lake for the rest of the week.

4. Car problems kept Mommy and Baby Girl with us at the farm for a couple of extra days after the lake week.

5. When Mommy headed home, we kept Little Sister at the farm for a week of Mimi Camp.

6. We drove Little Sister back home this weekend.

For the first time in about 2-1/2 weeks, we are home alone. Sitting still for a change. Craft supplies put away. Pink electric car parked in the garage. Toys stashed until the next visit.

Bear with me while I rest up from all the fun we had. I'll be back here soon.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Busy Week - Fun Times

We did it all in one week. It felt like a month. But it was only a week. Jessica and I flew west to attend a wedding in Colorado. I was there less than 48 hours, but it was enough to know that I'd like to go again. And visit at a more leisurely pace.

Outdoor weddings can be tricky but this one was perfect. The weather was clear. And in the Rockies, they don't have to deal with the heat and humidity that is our everyday fare.

Everywhere I looked there was another beautiful vista. I'm so glad that we were able to go. To celebrate the marriage, to spend time with family and to see a little of the landscape that was so different from ours.

And then in the blink of an eye we were back in the deep South where the air was thick and steamy when we stepped off the plane. But we had things to do here. Every July 4th for many years, we have had a big family dinner. I told someone this year that it was just like Thanksgiving, but with BBQ instead of turkey and it was much more casual.

I just read in a decorating magazine about a similar cottage that the owner called "the glue house." He said it was the house where extended family gathered and kept them glued together. I understand what he means. This year it was tempting to skip the family day because of the wedding trip.

But big family gatherings are rare as it is and it was important to me to keep the tradition going. We buy the barbecue and everyone brings the rest of the food anyway, so I wasn't doing lots of cooking. We just needed to set up tables and pull out a few tablecloths.

There were 25 cousins of all ages who came for the day. The little ones played in a wading pool and went on a boat ride. The older ones found a seat in the shade and visited.

And then when the multitude of cousins went home, we stayed on for our vacation. Lots of time for play outside, boating and fishing. Lots of "Aunt Jecca" time for the little girls. They love that she will play with them endlessly. Lots of memory making.

Both little girls got time "at the wheel" as they drove the boat sitting in Daddy-O's lap. After the 4th, there aren't so many boats on the lake so it's wide open for them to steer—under his watchful eye.

We always take at least one night cruise to watch the sun go down. The little girls love to see the birds and squirrels and lightening bugs and cicadas and lizards and frogs that are the real owners of the lake.

Breakfast was on the porch every day. How much fun is that? In fact, all meals are eaten on the porch. The lake cabin was built nearly 60 years ago (it's been in this family for over 50 of those years,) most likely as a small fishing cabin where cooking wasn't much of a consideration for the fishermen. But we now have the whole family here, so we added a big screened porch several years ago and that porch has become our primary summer living space.

One college-aged cousin who was at the lake for the first time on July 4th looked at our antique stove with raised eyebrows and asked if I really cooked on it. Of course, I cook on it. It has served us well for a very long time. And this tiny kitchen is a reminder that it doesn't really take much to produce a meal. No granite countertops. No large island. Not much counter space. (The sink is right beside the coffee pot.) I've learned to be very efficient.

And suddenly, it was time to pack up and head home. Our family week was over. We will be back several times before summer is over, but for shorter stays. Our grandchildren are the fourth generation of this family to enjoy this lake house. Here's hoping that another generation or two will get to enjoy this spot that we love.