Chicken and Vegetable skewers are one of my favorite things to make. I love meals where I can take care of the protein and vegetables in one-shot. Depending on my family’s mood, we eat it with a garden salad, or with toasted Pitas and Hummus, and of course, one of our favorite combinations is with delicious and fragrant Lemon Rice! These skewers make for great finger foods for entertaining as well!
This meal is super quick to put together too, which makes it very weeknight friendly. I buy pre-cut chicken from Trader Joe’s. Rinse and soak my basmati rice while I prep the vegetables. Dice up some onions, bell peppers and zucchini. Make a marinade with greek yogurt and dry spices. Toss chicken and veggies in the marinade and thread them onto bamboo skewers. I typically end up broiling these skewers, simply due to a texture preference. I have elaborated more on that in the next paragraph. Simultaneously, set the rice in my Instant Pot. In the end, this meal is at the table in under 30 minutes. I serve this with a Garden Salad with a lemon vinaigrette or a Greek salad sometimes.
Different cooking techniques result in different textures for the Chicken and Vegetable skewers. How you cook them is entirely your preference. I have for you 3 ways you can cook your skewers, and here’s what to expect from a texture standpoint. If you grill them or broil them in the oven, there is subtle char-broiled flavor that gets infused in the chicken and vegetables. The vegetables get cooked, but not all the way through and still retain their crunch. If you cook your skewers in the pressure cooker along with the Lemon rice, the chicken will be super moist and the vegetables will be tender, more like a steamed texture. You can choose vegetables that take a longer time cook, like turnips, carrots, potato cubes instead. My family prefers grilling or broiling them.
To make an all-vegetarian version of this dish, you can substitute chicken cubes with Paneer cubes or Extra-Firm Tofu cubes. Follow the recipe and marination process. If grilling them, reduce the time to 2-3 minutes per side, flipping them once. Continue Reading…
Whenever I want to test a new Chinese restaurant, I always order their Kung Pao Chicken. That determines if I’ll be going back to that place again or not. It is my all-time favorite asian stir-fry dish to eat! After having tasted a gazillion Kung Paos, I have to admit, in the end, nothing beats ‘Panda Express’s Kung Pao Chicken:-)
Kung Pao Chicken is asian comfort food for me. Tender juicy chicken, crunchy onions, peppers and celery, dressed with a light garlicky sauce, which is a perfect blend of salty & sweet goodness. Peanuts complete this dish by adding a slight crunch. I don’t even need rice or chowmein with it, I can eat a bowl full as-is. That being said, it pairs really well with brown jasmine rice.Continue Reading…
Hard Boiled Eggs! Here’s an easy and fail proof recipe to make perfect Hard Boiled Eggs in a pressure cooker! The popular 5-5-5 method works like a charm every single time and makes for some real-easy-to-peel boiled eggs. The 5-5-5 method is not a secret code- it’s an easy way to remember this recipe- 5 minutes of pressure cooking, 5 minutes of rest before opening lid, followed by 5 minutes of ice-water bath. It’s really that simple! The result is so consistent- you’ll be amazed.
So, why bother pressure cooking your eggs? The answer to that is consistent results , but before I elaborate on that, I have a confession to make- I cannot make perfect looking boiled eggs on the stove- I just cannot. No matter, how much I try, how many timers I set, I just cannot get the perfect center and cannot peel them nice and clean. A lot of my egg white ends up sticking to the shell and then starts the battle between the egg and me, and the egg usually wins! The result is always an unappetizing, butchered egg. When I saw so many people getting great results cooking them in the electrical pressure cooker, the Instant Pot , I tried it myself, and the results were amazing. The selling point was the ease of peeling them. The yolk texture was just right for me- moist and creamy, not dry or crumbly at all. It took me just a few minutes more than the time on the stove, so pressure cooking the eggs in my Instant Pot was a clear winner for me.
Frittata Muffins or Egg Bites– Warm, fluffy, flavorful and nutritious eggs bites that are shaped like muffins. 5 minutes of prep, 5 minutes of cooking. Cooking these is a 1-2-3 process– Beat eggs, top with your favorite mix-ins, cook them for 5 minutes in the Instant Pot– breakfast couldn’t get any easier than this!
Eggs! The number one choice of breakfast foods in my home. Growing up, Omelet-Sandwiches were a staple breakfast for school mornings. Sometimes, mom would add a variety of small diced vegetables in it and give it to us for lunch. It’s a perfect meal- protein and nutrient packed- keeps you full and going for hours.
So what is a Frittata? Frittata is an Italian egg-based dish similar to a quiche without the crust. It’s made by mixing the egg mixture with meats, cheeses, vegetables or even pasta. My family is crazy about frittatas- We make a simplified version for some week mornings, and then go all out on Saturday mornings. We usually bake these, but have started cooking them in our Instant Pot now. We make all kinds of variations- Mediterranean Frittata, with Feta cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and fresh basil; Indian Frittatas– with fine diced onions, peppers and tomatoes, seasoned with cumin and cayenne; Sometimes, left-over mac’n’cheese makes it in a Mac’n’Cheese Frittata, and then there is the “Anniversary Special“- which is a Crispy Potato Frittata. This is one of my all-time favorites- so my husband makes this for breakfast on our anniversary, every year… well, almost every year:-)
Here, I have adapted my recipe for my electrical pressure cooker, the Instant Pot 6 Qt . The Frittata Muffins turn out so moist, and stay moist for re-heating and eating. 5 minutes of prep and 5 minutes of cooking- how easy is that! They are a great make-aheads for the week, or, for a brunch gathering. I assemble them in Silicone Cupcake Muffin Molds, my new favorite kitchen accessories. Another great alternative that some of my friends use is the 7 Cavity Silicone Mold Muffin Pudding Mold. You don’t need to grease them, the muffins come out so easily, and I love how colorful they are- right!
Thai Panang Curry is a one of our must-haves when we go to a Thai restaurant. It’s a rich, mildly spicy and creamy coconut curry that can be made with Chicken, Seafood or Tofu (Vegetarian). This is another go-to recipe in my Fill-it, Shut-it, Forget-it series. Another weeknight savior!
A thick curry paste is used as a base for most Thai curries. The Panang curry paste typically consists of dried red chilies, garlic, shallot, lemongrass, sugar, salt, kaffir lime, galangal (Thai ginger), spices like coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cardamom and bay leaves. This paste is simmered with coconut milk and then protein and vegetables are added to it. Over the years, I have tried various brands of Thai curry pastes, but nothing comes close to the brand called Maesri. Their curry pastes are so authentic tasting, that if you ever did a blind taste test, you won’t be able to tell between a restaurant version and yours. I always order it from Amazon.com Maesri Thai Panang Curry Paste. I feel the same way about coconut milk too. This is my tried and trusted brand of Coconut Milk – Chaokoh .
It is real simple to make this curry. Turn on your Instant Pot on Saute mode. Stir in the coconut milk and curry paste, bring it to simmer while you add vegetables and protein. Stir it. Shut it. Cook for 3 minutes on Manual, QR after 5 minutes! Finish with brown sugar and few drops of lime juice and you’re done! Serve with brown or white Jasmine rice- That simple!
I make this mostly with Chicken, Shrimp or Tofu. The choice of vegetables is also huge. I add baby corn because my kids love it. You can add water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, bell peppers. I would add the peppers after cooking though and saute for 2 minutes. When cooking this with Firm Tofu or Extra Firm Tofu, reduce the cooking time to 1 minute since the Tofu just needs to absorb the flavors- everything is already cooked. When cooking this with Shrimp, cook the curry for 1 minute, QR, and then add the Shrimp, saute’ for 1-2 minutes, till they turn opaque. If you add them earlier, they’ll be over cooked. Possibilities are just endless with this curry- go ahead, make it your own and enjoy!
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into 1 inch pieces (or Firm Tofu)
1/2-1 teaspoon brown sugar
Few drops of lime juice
1 cup broccoli florets
Thai basil leaves for garnish (optional)
Prep: Cut chicken into 1 inch pieces. If using Form Tofu- cut it into 1 inch pieces . Chop baby corn and carrots. Cut 1 small head of broccoli into florets and keep aside.
Turn Instant Pot on Saute. Add coconut milk and water. Add curry paste and whisk it till it is blended with the coconut milk. Add baby corn, carrots (or whatever vegetables you are using). Add chicken or Tofu pieces. Stir everything. Make sure the curry mix is simmering at this point before you close the lid. It prevents the coconut milk from curdling.
Close lid. Hit cancel. Set vent to Sealing mode. Press 3 minutes Manual (high). Let the pressure release naturally for 5 minutes, (QR after 5).
Open the lid. Check for seasoning. Add brown sugar and lime juice. Add broccoli florets and let them hangout in the curry for about 30 seconds so they get cooked a bit. They'll still stay crunchy. You can leave them in there for another minute or 2 on Saute if you like them cooked more. If at this point, the sauce is thinner than you like, hit Saute and cook it off for a minute or two. Serve with White or Brown Jasmine rice!
If after opening the lid, the coconut milk seems curdled, don't worry, it hasn't gone bad. The heat and the pressure just separated the fat from the milk. You can turn on Saute mode and whisk it gently back together. It'll be a smooth curry again!
Minestrone Soup is an Italian soup, typically made with root vegetables, like onions, celery, carrots, stock, dried herbs, beans and tomatoes. It’s mostly vegetarian and often includes rice or pasta- perfect one-pot meal! I use this recipe a lot for weeknight meals- it’s one of my fill-it, shut-it, forget-it, meal series. Simply dump all ingredients in the Instant Pot (or any pressure cooker), close the lid, set a 3-4 minute timer. Once it’s cooked, manually release pressure after 5 minutes and you’re done! It’s that easy!
I have always noticed how our meals often reflect the colors of the season. This soup certainly screams Fall– a perfect blend of orange, red and green, it is also the perfect comfort soup to have on a cold and chilly evening. This soup comes together so easily, it’s almost wrong to call it ‘home-cooked’:-)
You can easily customize this soup to your taste- I keep switching the veggies in this soup. Sometimes, I add chopped squash or pumpkin to this and it taste amazing. I prefer to use canned beans in Minestrone Soup, simply out of convenience. The time it takes for dry beans to cook is too long for the vegetables, so, if using dry beans, one has to make this a two-step cooking process- cook the beans first and then add the remaining ingredients. I personally like using organic Northern beans here, but you can use the beans of your choice, Kidney, Pinto or Cannellini Beans. I make this soup with low-sodium vegetable broth, but you can use regular broth or even chicken/Beef broth. You can add diced tomatoes to this soup. We prefer a slightly less tomatoey flavor, so adding tomato paste just works out great for us.
Typically, this soup calls for a small pasta. I substitute it with Quinoa. My family prefers the taste of quinoa, plus it bumps up the fiber and protein in the soup. You could even add barley or bulgar instead. I add chopped spinach after cooking. The heat from the soup wilts it down. You can use any dark leafy green instead of spinach- kale would be a great addition here too. Garnish it with chopped basil, or freshly grated parmesan cheese and call it a day!
Optional Variation: Sometimes, I like to add an extra, totally optional, ingredient in this soup towards the end. I add chopped, pre-cooked, chicken and jalapeño sausage from Trader Joe’s. The sausage is fully cooked, so it just needs to hang out in the soup for a few minutes and it absorbs the flavors of the soup and becomes really soft. My family loves the combination of this spicy sausage with this soup, but you can skip it and make it totally vegetarian.
Stove-top:You can certainly cook this soup on the stove-top too. Add all the ingredients in a soup pot, stir well, and cook covered on medium-high heat for 20-25 minutes. Follow the remaining instructions for garnish and enjoy!
Stove-top Pressure cooker (Hawkins/Prestige): Follow all instructions and cook for 2 whistles in the pressure cooker. Wait 5 minutes and manually release pressure by carefully lifting the pressure weight.
Few tablespoons grated parmesan cheese for garnish
Prep: Chop vegetables of your choice (I used carrots, celery, spinach). If using fresh garlic, finely chop garlic cloves. Rinse and drain canned beans.
In the inner pot, add olive oil, garlic, chopped vegetables, beans, vegetable stock, spices, chili-garlic sauce, tomato paste (or diced tomatoes), quinoa (or elbow macaroni), and stir well.
Close lid. Set vent to Sealing mode. Cook on Manual (high) for 3-4 minutes, depending on how you like your vegetables (I cook for 3 minutes).
Wait for 5 minutes and release the pressure manually, and open the lid (which means QR after 5mins). . Stir in chopped spinach and sausage (if using). The heat from the soup will be enough to wilt the spinach and bring everything together. Garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese and enjoy!
Come November and my countdown to the holidays starts! The excitement of who’s coming over or where are we going soon turns into, what am I making or taking?
One thing I love doing around holidays is to try recipes that are quick to make, sure to please, and, can be made ahead of time. Last weekend, I jazzed up a tried and trusted store-bought cornbread mix from Trader Joe’s, that I have been using for years, and made two variations with it- Pumpkin Spice Cornbread & Cranberry Orange Cornbread, hit a home run with both in my house! I have made cornbread from scratch many a times and have found this pre-mix from Trader Joe’s taste very similar to that. So, this is one short-cut that leaves me more time for the zillion other things to do. From one 15 oz. box of cornbread mix, I can make four mini loaves. I typically half the mix and make two flavor variations out of it. If you want to stick to one flavor, simply double up the ingredients in this recipe.
I baked, or should I say cooked, this cornbread in my electric pressure cooker, the Instant Pot DUO this time. It was done in about the same time as the oven, was missing the golden crisp top layer that a cornbread typically has, BUT, it was the most moist cornbread I have ever had! Seriously, it was delicious- a sponge cake like consistency with the earthiness of the cornmeal- I am definitely going to be pressure cooking my cornbreads from now on.
This flavor combination of Cranberry- Orange-Cornmeal was just meant to be. It took me 2 tries to get this right. Adding orange zest to the second batch took this cornbread to another level of flavortown. The orange compliments the subtle sweetness in the cornmeal and the cranberries’ tartness provides a nice contrast and balance to the cornbread. The result is a well balanced, moist and flavorful cornbread which smells of orange and cornmeal. This can be enjoyed as-is but will also make a great base for stuffing. Using the same recipe, you can make Cranberry Orange Corn muffins too, this will be a great add for a breakfast or brunch table. I made this recipe using Mini Loaf Baking Pans. This size just works great for my family and also makes for a perfect size for gifting or adding to your holiday basket.
These Cranberry Orange Cornbread loaves can be made in the oven too. Simply mix everything as per the directions and bake in a preheated 350F oven for 12-14 minutes. The actual time will depend on your oven. At the 12 minute mark, check for doneness by inserting a toothpick, if it comes out clean, you’re good, else, pop-it back for another minute or two.
Cranberry Orange Cornbread in Instant Pot (or Oven)
1/2 cup dried cranberries (can use dried orange cranberries too)
Melt butter in the microwave, about 20-30 seconds. Add orange juice, sour cream, egg and orange zest. Whisk together. Add cornbread mix and dried cranberries and mix with a spatula.
Grease mini-baking loaf pans with any baking/cooking spray. Divide the better equally between two loaf pans.
Pour 1 cup water in the Inner pot of your Instant Pot (I used the 6QT DUO). Place trivet. Place two loaf pans on top. If you're doubling up the recipe, you can stack two more on top as shown in the photo above.
Close lid. Set valve to Sealing. Press Manual for 12 minutes. Open lid after natural pressure release. Cool cornbread for 5 -10 minutes before slicing. Enjoy as-is or with honey butter!
Fall is my favorite season of the year. The pleasant breeze, leaves changing color, salads giving way to soups, ice-creams making way for pies and cobblers! It’s also the beginning of Pumpkin season. You can start seeing pumpkins of all shapes and sizes widely available everywhere. I love cooking and baking with pumpkin and I am always looking for new ways to use pumpkin in sweet and savory dishes. One thing I love doing around holidays is to create recipes that are quick to please and can be made ahead of time. Seems like I’ve hit a home-run in my house with this recipe- Pumpkin Spice Cornbread!
Earthy and sweet cornbread mix meets creamy and moist homemade pumpkin puree– the result is a soft, moist and delicious Pumpkin Spice Cornbread. This holiday season, I am jazzing up a tried and trusted store-bought cornbread mix from Trader Joe’s, that I have been using for years. This cornbread will make a great addition to your table. Enjoy it as-is or make stuffing with it. Pair it with honey butter or pumpkin butter and enjoy it with a cup of tea or coffee for a delicious and light snack.
In the video here, I have made this Pumpkin Spice Cornbread in my electric pressure cooker- The Instant Pot DUO. It cooked in about the same time as the oven, was missing the crisp golden outer layer, BUT, pressure cooking made this cornbread really really moist. I like making mini loaves of cornbread using the disposable Mini Loaf Baking Pans. I prefer the portion size of the slices- prevents me from over-indulging 🙂 Plus, makes for cute gifts for the holiday basket. From one 15 oz. box of cornbread mix, I can make four mini loaves. I typically half the mix and make two different flavors out of it. You can use this recipe and make Pumpkin Spice Muffins too, it will be a great side for your breakfast or brunch table. They are perfect for taking to office potlucks too. The second flavor I made over the weekend was another huge success in my house- Cranberry Orange Cornbread. If you want to stick to one flavor, simply double up the ingredients in this recipe.
These Pumpkin Spice Cornbread loaves can be made in the oven too. Simply mix everything as per the directions and bake in a preheated 350F oven for 12-14 minutes. The actual time will depend on your oven. At the 12 minute mark, check for doneness by inserting a toothpick, if it comes out clean, you’re good, else, pop-it back for another minute or two.
Melt butter in the microwave, about 20-30 seconds. Add egg, pumpkin puree, milk and pumpkin pie spice. Whisk together. Add cornbread mix and mix with a spatula.
Grease mini-baking loaf pans with any baking/cooking spray. Divide the better equally between two Mini Loaf Pans.
Pour 1 cup water in the Inner pot of your Instant Pot (I used the DUO 6 Qt). Place trivet. Place two loaf pans on top. If you're doubling up the recipe, you can stack two more on top as shown in the video.
Close lid. Set valve to Sealing. Press Manual for 12 minutes. Open lid after natural pressure release. Cool cornbread for 5 -10 minutes before slicing. Enjoy with honey butter!
Cucumber Raita is a variation of a popular Indian yogurt dip called Raita. It can be used as a dip with Pita bread/Chips or as an accompaniment to popular Indian main dishes like Biryani, Chicken Tikka Masala , Tandoori Chicken etc., as well as everyday Indian food. It is made by mixing together freshly chopped cucumber (without seeds), cilantro and/or mint, yogurt, salt, an Indian spice blend called Chaat Masala and roasted ground cumin. Chaat masala is a spice blend that adds a zing, which compliments the cool yogurt. Roasted cumin on the other hand, adds a wonderful earthiness and a sweet aroma to the dip. That’s all there is to it. Depending on the tanginess of the yogurt, one can add a pinch of sugar too. Sometimes I add a pinch of cayenne or paprika to it to give it a kick. I like using Pickling cucumbers or Persian cucumbers for this recipe because of two reasons. They are almost seedless, so I don’t have to remove the seeds, nor do I have to peel them, plus they are typically more crunchy in taste, which adds a great contrast to the creaminess of the yogurt.
Yogurt is a staple in daily diets of many Indians, either in the form of a buttermilk, a variation of Raita, or plain old yogurt! It balances the heat and warmth of the Indian spices and in summer months, helps deal with the heat. In Punjabi cuisine, plain yogurt is an integral part of a traditional breakfast of stuffed whole-wheat flatbreads- Paranthas.
Cucumber Raita always brings back sweet memories for me. When I was a kid, whenever my family would go out to dine at an Indian restaurant, my parents would order a variety of meat and vegetarian dishes, and, Cucumber Raita & Naan for my sister, who was a toddler then. She lived on that combo for a long time. So much so, that most of our frequently visited restaurants would know that no matter what we ordered, it had to come with a Cucumber Raita and Naan combo for my sister! Now when I see both my children equally fond of that combo, I feel life has come a full circle…. and that they both inherited her picky genes :-).
Prepare the cucumbers- if using regular cucumbers, peel and cut them in half. Using a teaspoon, remove the seeds from the core and chop it fine. If using English, Persian or Pickling cucumbers, chop them fine.
Assemble all the ingredients together in a bowl and mix with a spatula. Garnish with mint. Serve as a side accompaniment to Indian entrees or as a dip for Pita chips.
You know Fall is here when you start seeing cute little Sugar Pumpkins or Pie Pumpkins in your grocery stores. Like their name suggests, they are sweeter than the big ones, which makes them ideal for pies, cakes, soups etc. My kids love carving and decorating a bunch of sugar pumpkins for Halloween and putting them around the house with tea-lights.
Till a few years ago, I used to think that making homemade pumpkin puree is a very time consuming process and was happy using canned pumpkin. Then one day, my little girls went to a pumpkin patch with their school buddies and came home with a little too many pumpkins for us to carve and decorate. So I looked up the recipe for oven-roasting the sugar pumpkin and made pumpkin puree from scratch for the first time. I’ve never looked at canned pumpkin puree again!
Don’t get me wrong, I do value canned stuff- makes life a lot easier, but if you have 30 minutes- an hour to spare, I would highly recommend giving either of these recipes a try. The taste is so much creamier and richer and that translates to whatever you end up making with it.
In my house, we end up using the puree in Pumpkin pie, Pumpkin Spice Walnut Bread, Pumpkin Spice Pancakes and our latest ‘food-venture’- Pumpkin Spice Cornbread! So, if you’re sold on the idea of homemade pumpkin puree, here are the two ways of cooking the pumpkin- roasting it in the oven, or, pressure cooking it in an electric pressure cooker like the Instant Pot. I like using smaller size sugar pumpkins for making puree, around 2 pounds each. A 2 pound pumpkin should result in roughly 2-2.5 cups of pumpkin puree.
Oven vs. Instant Pot: If you’re cooking 2 or more pumpkins, I would recommend using the oven method. I can easily fit 2 sugar pumpkins, around 2 pounds in size each, on one baking sheet. So between 3 racks, you can roast up to 6 pumpkins in the same time. If you do, remember to switch the top and bottom layer half way through. But if you’re cooking just one, Instant Pot is a clear winner- it cuts down the cooking time by a third.
Pre-heat oven to 350F. Wash and dry the sugar pumpkin.
Slice the stem off, it makes working the pumpkin much easier. Using a sharp knife like a chef’s knife, slice the pumpkin in half. Using a spoon or an ice cream scoop, remove the seeds and stringy core. You can save the seeds for roasting if you wish.
Line a baking tray with parchment paper or foil. Place the pumpkin face down on the sheet (flat side down). Roast in the oven for 40-45 minutes, or till the pumpkin skin darkens and the flesh is fork tender. The exact time will depend on the size of pumpkin.
Cool the pumpkin for 10 minutes. Using a large spoon, scoop out the flesh, like you would for an avocado. The skin is so soft and starts separating very easily from the flesh. Blend the pumpkin flesh in a puree and you’re done!
Wash and dry the sugar pumpkin. Slice the stem off. Pour 1 cup water in the inner pot. Place the trivet and put the pumpkin on the trivet. Close the lid. Set the valve to Sealing mode. Press Manual, high, for 8 minutes.
Let the pressure release naturally. Open lid, remove the pumpkin and let it cool for 10 minutes. Slice the pumpkin in half or quarters. Using a spoon remove the seeds and stringy core. You can save the seeds for roasting if you wish.
Using a sharp spoon, scoop out the flesh, like you would for an Avocado. The skin is so soft that it starts separating very easily from the flesh. Blend the pumpkin flesh in a blender and you’re done!