Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Pressure Cooking -- Gosh I love it!

The best of both worlds ... home cooked ... quickly!


The name of my blog is New Dog Learns Old Tricks. The reason I named it that is because I'm from a generation, for whom the older ways have been neglected.  We weren't taught to sew, crochet, cook, bake, paint, mend things, repair things, etc. If we were, we didn't pay enough attention, because why did we need to learn that stuff?  We lived in a disposable society.

I am exploring many different things which are the 'old tricks' to learn them, use them in a way which makes sense in today's world, and pass them on to my children.  I have learned to crochet, make scarves, prepare and freeze meals, use a crock pot in a different way and now I'm moving onto something I have always done, but am expanding upon. 

My mom made two things in her big, huge, heavy, old pressure cooker.  She made green beans and ham hocks, and she made Swiss Steak.  
Old Style Pressure Cooker
Both were very delicious, but were for special occasions. I had a small pressure cooker in which I made green beans and ham hocks, but my family got too large for that and we found a larger size at an estate sale and snapped it up.  

The new one I purchased is much safer, easier to use and works really well. There is no weight to worry about and it has safety features. Turns out it is a very expensive model, for which I only paid $25. I don't think it had been used more than a few times. 

The one my mom had and my first one had the old fashioned weight on the top of the steam release.

This new version has no weight on the top, a sensor red floating indicator that allows me to know when the correct pressure has been reached, and a quick release valve for the finishing so I don't have to worry about things blowing up in my face.
 Different pressure cookers use  different ways to inform you when the cooking pressure reached the maximum, my T-fal's "red sensor" button on the handle will rise to indicate that. The "knob" above the red button will also start to release a small amount of steam to maintain the pressure.I love my new pressure cooker. Tonight I was faced with what to make for dinner. Having been at the doctor's office all day with two of my girls, I didn't have anything ready.  Time to get out the pressure cooker to make it fast and yummy. First step ... 6 medium size potatoes, quartered, 2 onions, cut in eights, one can of chicken broth, 1 pork loin tip "roast" that I bought frozen from the grocery in one of their "Buy 1, Get 3 free" sales. Salt, pepper and some western seasoning. Second step ... Pressure cooker, put in all ingredients in the order they are listed above.  I also added an additional cup or so of water. Third step ... close it up, bring to pressure, lower temp and cook for 20 minutes. Fourth step ... smell the yummy goodness flowing through the house :) Fifth step ... turn off the heat, bleed the pressure and open for a yummy meal. I heated up a quick can of whole kernel corn and served this to the girls for a home cooked meal in about 40 minutes from start to feeding. The meat was fork tender, the potatoes were infused with flavor and had the texture of smooth butter. Fantastic meal.  The broth was very flavorful also.

Do you remember your parents or grandparents cooking in a pressure cooker? What did they make? Do you cook in one? Stovetop or Electric?  Share with us some of your thoughts on this old and effective way of cooking in a hurry!

Have a blessed day!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Crock Pot Meal Review and Hints -- French Dip Sandwiches

Mystery may have been solved!

For those of you who might not have been following my journey into the crock pot premade meal world ... a short recap.

I found this website: Crockpotladies and they did a bang up job with a grocery list, hints on preparation, everything you need to make recipes, freeze them and then cook them in your crockpot with easy and simply additions.

I jumped in and we did a double batch of everything.  My son went off to college, so my family of 6 became a family of 5 and the two wee ones share a meal, so recipes made for 4 people are working for us right now.

I have a wonderful crockpot and I love cooking in it. I have never had any issues with cooking times or temperatures before I went on this journey, so I never thought about it when I began to make these recipes.  However, as time went on and I realized the meat was overcooked and dried out in many of the recipes, I thought (ding ding) maybe my pot is hotter than the one they used, let's see what I can do about that.

The first time I made French Dip Sandwiches I followed the directions exactly and the meet was good tasting, but a bit dry.  I made sandwiches after shredding the meat and found the dipping broth to be fantastic.  

The recipe calls for at least 6 hours on low, but when I checked my crock-pot at barely 5 hours, the meat was completely cooked and ready to turn over into dry. So, I pulled it out, put extra broth over it and put it in the refrigerator.

This is where I started to improve on the recipe.  I took the remaining broth with all the drippings and yummy things still in it and set it aside in the crock pot liner with a tie on it.  Clean crock pot, juice contained. Love that.  Anyway ...

I made a rue out of butter and flour in a skillet, then added the reserved broth to the pan until I had a wonderful, flavorful, rich brown gravy.  We cooked macaroni (could have used mashed potatoes) and served the meat in chunks, not shredded, over the macaroni, then put the gravy over that.  This was a fantastic meal!  The reviews were off the chart YUMMY!  Everyone loved it, and it was a hit for leftovers as well.

Here is my recommendation when using crock pot recipes for the future.  I will be checking my crock starting 2 hours before the time on the recipe to ensure I don't over cook. When I find a time that works for me, I will modify the recipe and put it in my box so I know for the future.  I'm so happy to have worked this out and I'm thrilled to be able to give a heartfelt YUMMY rating from everyone in the family for my modified version of the French Dip Sandwiches.

Here's hoping, as I adjust times on my meals that they get better and better!

Have a yummy day!

Monday, September 8, 2014

New Kind of Meal Planning

Schwan's Cares -- Fundraising program and great opportunity

My daughter's high school is doing a fund raiser with a frozen food service called Schwan's.  I don't know how many of you are familiar with this company. I had heard of them, but never purchased any of their products. Thought it was a bithigh priced and I could go to the store for what I needed.

When the fund raiser opportunity came along, I thought I would buy a few things and see how they compared to 'crock pot' meals for taste, convenience and cost. We have a few Schwann's meals under our belts and I have to say, I am loving the experience. I like shopping for them, receiving them, cooking them and most of all, EATING them!

A little about the fundraiser can be found by clicking on the heading above and going to my fundraising page for the school. If you decide you want to try this, please order through my page, so the school can raise much needed funds. It doesn't change the cost to you.

I have placed two orders so far and I enjoy the delivery man very much. He has a regular route and will come on specified days (you get to choose the cycle length and your day is determined by your address).  I have him coming every two weeks right now.  We have an extra chest freezer, so that makes it possible. I would have to do a week at a time if I didn't have that extra space.

So far, everything we have eaten has been fantastic. Not just good, but fantastic.

In future posts, I will review our Schwan's meals and let you know what we think of them. I just wanted to introduce you to the company and fundraiser today, and perhaps you will be intrigued enough to go out and try a few things for yourself.
Pork Egg Rolls

So far I recommend the following items:

Cheese stuffed shells
There are many more, but these are the favorites so far. The vegetables have all been very good as well.  Looking forward to trying the lettuce wraps and salmon next.

Lettuce wraps

Please leave any comments or questions you have about this and remember to click on this FUNDRAISER LINK to go to my page to support Calvary Christian Academy.

Looking forward to hearing what your favorite items are.

Sweet and Sour Beef - Crockpot Review

Crockpot Review: French Dip Sandwiches

Sweet and sour Beef

I was very excited about this one.  About an hour before it was supposed to be finished, I checked on it and it looked good.  Smelled good.  Had to run out to get kiddo from school and got back about an hour later.

I had put the crock pot on 'warm' when I left.  My husband made a batch of rice and we cooked up some stir fry veggies to put under the beef, just like the recipe said.  I can see how this would have been a good meal. I can see how the taste was fine, the sauce good and the veggies under the meat mixed up very nicely to make an 'oriental' style dinner.

However, I'm disappointed in myself and the crockpot because putting it on warm for that last hour ruined it.  The flavors were still good, but the meat was so dry, it could have choked you.  I don't think this is the fault of the recipe. I think it's my fault for keeping it on warm for an extra hour.  I could have just turned it off and maybe reheated when I got home. I'm not sure how to handle this situation?

How do you handle the situation when the meal is ready, but you are not? How do you keep from ruining your dinner? I'd be interested in see feedback and comments on this.

Our ranking system is Yummy, Good, Ok and Yuck.

From the peanut gallery:
Number 1 son:  Off to college, so no more feedback from him
Number 1 husband: Ok
Number 2 daughter:   OK
Number 3 daughter:  OK
Number 4 daughter:  OK
My personal opinion is:  OK

I think those would have all be Yummy or Good if I hadn't overcooked the meal.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

French Dip Sandwiches - Crockpot Meal

Crockpot Review: French Dip Sandwiches

French Dip Sandwiches

Wow! This was a home run. It cooked in the amount of time specified, the broth/juice was fanastic, the meat tender and the overall taste really great. 

We didn't use hoagie rolls this evening, we went with the low calorie whole wheat hamburger buns.  Good choice, and the flavor of the meat was really enjoyable.

Side dishes are required, as this recipe is really only the  meat portion of the meal.  We served with Tater Tots and corn.
This was very popular with the family and is a recipe I would use again and again. When the meat goes on sale, I can package it up, per the recipe, put in the freezer and we are ready to go with it in the crock pot. I only made one serving o this, so I have another still available to me for another time.

Our ranking system is Yummy, Good, Ok and Yuck.

From the peanut gallery:
Number 1 son:  Off to college, so no more feedback from him
Number 1 husband: yummy 
Number 2 daughter:   yummy
Number 3 daughter:  yummy
Number 4 daughter:  yummy
My personal opinion is:  yummy

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Crockpot Review: Applesauce Chicken

Applesauce Chicken

Well, tonite we hit a good one.  I made a double batch of this recipe in the crockpot and it is pretty darn tasty.  Cooked on low for 6 hours just like it said. The chicken was a tiny bit dry, so maybe only 4.5-5 hours would have been better, but it was still good.

We are in a hurry tonite, with lots of meetings and games for the kids, so it was quick and easy. Boiled up a pot of large elbow macaroni, put that in the bottom of the bowl, laid a breast on top and ladled the sauce onto it. I thought it had a nice kick, without being too hot for the kids.

Our ranking system is Yummy, Good, Ok and Yuck.

From the peanut gallery:
Number 1 son:  Off to college, so no more feedback from him
Number 1 husband:  
Number 2 daughter:   At volleyball, will have when she returns home
Number 3 daughter:  OK
Number 4 daughter:  Good 
My personal opinion is:  Good

Aloha Chicken? More like Farewell Chicken....

Review - 6th Crockpot Meal - Aloha Chicken

I will be brief about this one. I followed the directions, I cooked for the proper length of time, I served it over rice, and EVERYONE in the family voted YUCKY!  Bland, dry and not good at all.  We threw away most of the meal and everyone ate after dinner because they were still hungry.