DIY Trader Joe’s Garlic Salt

We love Trader Joe’s spice grinders. We like the Lemon Pepper, Everyday Seasoning, and Garlic Salt. If you haven’t tried them, you really should.

What what do you do when you find yourself smack-dab in the middle of a pandemic, and you can’t run out and buy more? You get creative and make your own.

Garlic Salt is the seasoning I use the most. It’s basic and I find it to be the most versatile. I use it on the kids chicken strips that they eat every day for lunch, and I REALLY like it on our sourdough crackers. If you want to try to craft your own, save an empty grinder and mix the following together.

Homemade Garlic Salt:

3 tsp parsley flakes

3 tsp dried minced garlic

2 tsp onion flakes

2 tsp salt

Chocolate Raspberry Breakfast Quinoa – Make Ahead Instant Pot Meal

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I’ve been making good use of quinoa for breakfast in the Instant Pot lately. This is the latest and the easiest so far.

It is true that “necessity is the mother of invention.” The only reason that I came up with this recipe is because I was going to make the Pumpkin Spice Breakfast Quinoa, but I was out of pumpkin so I had to come up with another flavor.

This ended up being ridiculously simple.

Chocolate Raspberry Breakfast Quinoa: 

2 cups quinoa, rinsed
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbls butter (or coconut oil if you can use that)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup raspberry jam (or really any favorite jam flavor)
3 1/2 cups water

Cook in the Instant Pot on high pressure for 1 minute with natural pressure release. You can also use the Delay Start feature and set this up the night before to come on and be warm and ready when you wake up in the morning.

Serve warm sprinkled with sliced almonds, chocolate chunks and a dash of cream.

Mexican Brown Rice and Lentils

img_9966So, we got home from a trip over New Year’s and I had 30 minutes to come up with something for dinner based on what was in the pantry and freezer. I quickly consulted my new cookbooks to see if I could get any ideas. I had just gotten the Instant Pot Bible before Christmas when I got my new Instant Pot. And over the holidays I found One Pot Wonders on clearance while browsing at Barnes & Noble. (Note: These are non-affiliate links by the way.)

After flipping through both these books, I found one recipe in each that I had about half of the ingredients for. So, I combined the two, threw it all in the Instant Pot and everyone loved it! I wasn’t sure how the lentils were going to go over as we don’t eat them very often, and you know how kids can be when they are presented with a food that they don’t recognize. But, no one even noticed. The only complaint I got was that the 3-year old didn’t want to eat the corn. But, she never eats that anyway. So, it was a bit hit. Everyone asked for seconds, and thanks to my 8-quart Instant Pot we had enough leftover for the next night (which I re-warmed in the IP as well for 2 hours on the normal slow cook setting).

If you want to give it a go, grab that bag of brown rice and lentils. It’s really an easy recipe.

Mexican Brown Rice & Lentils: 

(Note: I used my 8-quart Instant Pot for this recipe. It made enough to feed eight, or 4-6  with a modest amount of leftovers.)

3 cups brown rice
1 cup lentils
3/4 cup yellow onion, diced
6-8 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp season salt (I like Tony’s)
dash of Cayenne pepper
1 tbls cumin
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup salsa
6 cups water/vegetable broth (I used half water, half broth)
1 lb. cooked chicken (I used chicken that I had in the freezer, but you could use frozen uncooked chicken strips as well.)
2 tbls light olive oil (or other mild tasting oil)
1 can whole kernel corn, or 1 cup frozen corn
lime juice (optional)
cilantro (optional)

Saute the onion and garlic in a little olive oil in the Instant Pot. Add the salt, pepper and spices. Cook the onions and garlic until they are aromatic, but be careful not to let them burn. That Saute setting can get hot. Then add the lentils and rice to Instant Pot stirring to coat all the grains with the oil and seasonings. Add the diced tomatoes and water/broth. Set the chicken in the center of the grains. Close the lid and set to sealing position. Cook on high pressure for 30 minutes with natural pressure release. Total cook time to come to pressure, cook and release naturally was just a little over one hour.

When the food has cooked, remove the lid and add the corn and squeeze a little lime juice in and stir. Serve sprinkled with fresh or dried cilantro and chopped red onions. Enjoy!

 

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Apple Cinnamon Breakfast Quinoa – Instant Pot Recipe

I’m continuing with my breakfast theme using quinoa. This time with Apple Cinnamon Quinoa. I served this with soft boiled eggs for Christmas Eve breakfast this year. They all cooked nicely together in the Instant Pot at the same time. The quinoa nestled nicely on the bottom, and the eggs happily sitting on their trivet above.

* Note: I have an 8 quart Instant Pot. Adjust the recipe as necessary for smaller sizes.

Apple Cinnamon Breakfast Quinoa:

2 cups uncooked quinoa, rinsed

3-4 apples, peeled and chopped (I like Gala)

3 tbls butter

1 tbls Cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup agave nectar (or honey, brown sugar, or maple syrup)

3 cups water

Place all these ingredients in your Instant Pot. Cook at high pressure for 1 minute with natural pressure release. This is yummy served warm with a bit of cream on top.

If you want to cook eggs at the same time, place a trivet which will hold eggs in the pot so that it sits above the other ingredients. Stack your eggs on the trivet. Seal the lid. For soft boiled eggs cook for 1 minute at high pressure with natural pressure release. For hard boiled, cook at high pressure for 4 minutes with natural pressure release.

Enjoy your yummy breakfast!

Pumpkin Spice Quinoa Breakfast Porridge – Instant Pot Make Ahead Meal

I got an Instant Pot about a month ago and have been watching out for recipes that we can try given all our food restrictions. I was overjoyed to find this Pumpkin Quinoa Porridge recipe from Allergy Awesomeness. With a few tweaks I made it doable for all our allergies and even better, I can set it on delay start in the Instant Pot the night before and it’s ready first thing in the morning for the early risers, which means I get to lounge in bed longer with the baby. Win, win for me.

Make Ahead Pumpkin Quinoa Porridge:

2 cups uncooked quinoa, rinsed

1 can pumpkin (regular 15 oz size)

2 tsp pumpkin pie spice or Allspice

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup brown sugar

3 1/2 cups water

2 tsp Vanilla

3 tbls butter

Once all the ingredients are assembled in the pot, put the lid on in sealing position, and set it to cool at high pressure for 1 minute with natural pressure release.

If you want to make it in advance, use the Delay Start to set the number off hours that you want the pot to sit before it starts the cooking program. I like to assemble everything the night before and then use the Delay Start so that it is ready for my early risers when they get up. I love that I don’t even have to be out of bed yet and breakfast is ready for them. It’s great served warm with a bit of cream and some sliced almonds and chocolate chips sprinkled on top. You can also enjoy it leftover as a cold cereal. Eat up everyone! And stayed tuned. I have several more breakfast quinoa recipes coming up – Apple Cinnamon, Chocolate Raspberry, and Chocolate Custard to be exact.

Merry Muffins – Beet Chocolate Chip Muffins

Merry Muffins – Beet Chocolate Chip Muffins

I wanted to make something festive for Christmas. So, I took my normal banana chocolate chip muffins that I make every week for snacks and dressed them up a bit. This is basically a healthy version of red velvet cake using beets to add some fun color, nice texture and extra vitamins. The result: I had something special for Christmas week for the kids to eat for snack time. Here’s what I did if you want to give it a try.

Merry Muffins: 

  1. Steam 4 medium beets. I used my new Instant Pot. Cook however you prefer until tender. I cooked mine with the skins on and then they peeled right off when I took them out of the Instant Pot. In the Instant Pot, I cooked them on low pressure for 15 minutes with natural pressure release. Total time from locking on the lid to finish was about 40 minutes total.

     

  2. Reserve the cooking liquid from the beets to add a little extra color. You can easily reduce to concentrate the color by setting the Instant Pot to sauté after you have removed the beets while you assemble your other ingredients.
  3. Peel the cooked beets and purée in the food processor.
  4. Prepare your dry ingredients. Adjust the flours to suit your tastes and dietary needs.
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour (I like King Arthur or Trader Joe’s)
    • 1 cup whole grain spelt (or whole wheat flour)
    • 3/4 cup millet
    • 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 2 tbls baking powder
    • 5 tbls cocoa powder
    • 2 1/2 cups chocolate chips
  5. Next, add some sweetness. Choose your sweetener. Below is what I used. Substitute what you like.
    • 3/4 cups honey
    • 1/2 cup maple syrup
    • 1/4 agave
  6. Get your liquids ready.
    • 2 tsp vanilla extract
    • 2 1/2 cups of milk (minus the volume of liquid from your reserved beet juice)
    • 6 egg yolks (we avoid egg whites, use 3 whole eggs if you like)
    • beet puree
    • 1/2 cup light olive oil (or other tasteless oil)
    • 3 very ripe mashed bananas
  7. Mix the dry ingredients. Add the sweetener to the wet ingredients, and the combine the wet and the dry together, stirring until just combined.img_9520
  8. Spoon into muffin cups. I like reusable silicone muffin cups.img_9521
  9. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes.
  10. This recipe made about 2 dozen regular size muffins, and about 3 dozen baby muffins. These are best enjoyed fresh. For best texture, freeze if you are not planning on using them within two days.img_9522

 

Easy Roasted Chicken and Veggies


I made this colorful concoction for our Easter dinner this year. It was delicious and so easy to prep ahead when you have guests.

I started the night before by washing and chopping all my veggies, and setting some minced garlic to marinate overnight in olive oil. 

In the morning I tossed about 8-10 red potatoes and a handful of carrots in a big bowl with my garlic and olive oil mixture from the night before. Then I sprinkled them with salt and pepper and put them on my baking stone. I coated the chicken thighs (boneless, skinless, about 2.5 pounds) in the same oil and garlic mixture and placed them around and on top of the potatoes and carrots. Then I threw in some chopped onion pieces and celery stalks for flavor and good measure. 


Next, I coated all my veggies. I had pre-chopped red onions, yellow squash, red peppers, broccoli and asaparagus. For this tray I chose veggies that were colorful for spring and ones that would roast quickly. (The potatoes and carrots went on the tray with the chicken because they would need a longer cooking time.) I coated them in an olive oil, garlic mix with rosemary and oregano added, and sprinkles of salt and pepper. These all got spread on a second tray.

Before roasting


I baked the chicken first. 45 minutes at 400 degrees. When it was done, I took it out to sit and put the second tray with the veggies in the hot oven (still at 400 degrees) for 20 minutes. Everything was perfectly roasted. It was an easy, delicious and flavorful meal.

Roasted to perfection. 400 for 20 minutes.


We had carrot cake for dessert, but that will have to be another recipe. 🙂

Black Bean, Sweet Potato, Turkey Chili


I’ve always used my Mom’s chili recipe. It’s Tex-Mex all the way. My allergy kid is off tomatoes right now however, so that recipe is out. Recently, I’ve been experimenting with alternatives and honestly, we haven’t like any of them….until this one.
It’s a keeper. A Facebook friend posted this recipe for a black bean, sweet potato vegetarian chili. It sounded appealing because it used many of the same spices that I typically use in chili, so I tweaked it a bit and made it my own. 

The first change was to add meat. Sorry to my vegetarian friends. I added ground turkey, omitted the tomatoes and changed a few other ingredients based on what I had on hand and what sounded good.

Black Bean, Sweet Potato, Turkey Chili:

1.5 lbs ground turkey

1 yellow onion, diced

6 cloves of garlic, pressed or minced 

1 tbl chili powder

3 tbls cumin

1 Jalepeno, seeded and diced

Salt and pepper

Brown the turkey meat adding the chopped items and then the spices.

Next add…

1 can each black and pinto beans (or 8 oz. dried and soaked beans)

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped

1 cup chopped red pepper

2 cups chopped red Swiss chard

3 cups vegetable broth

If needed, add enough water to cover all the ingredients. Simmer until heated through or until the beans are tender if using dried.

This would also make a great crock pot meal if you cooked the meat ahead and tossed all the rest in the crock pot the day of.

I like this recipe because it tastes similar to my standard chili and has a good enough base with the sauce, peppers and sweet potatoes that none of us missed the tomatoes. Eat well everyone!

Freezer Biscuits

I like to keep these homemade freezer biscuits on hand when I need some quick rolls to go with dinner. Mix them up, freeze for later , and cook them up in 20 minutes when you need them.

6 cups of flour 

2 tbls baking powder

2 tsp salt

1 tbls sugar 

4 cups heavy cream

Mix. Roll out to 3/4 inch thick. Cut out. Freeze on a covered cookie sheet. Once frozen, store in a gallon freezer bag. When you’re ready to bake, cook on 400 for 20 minutes. They’re delicious and fluffy.

Make Ahead Chicken Pot Pie

We had dinner guests planned for a Sunday afternoon a couple of months ago and I needed a make ahead meal. Chicken pot pie wouldn’t normally fall into that category but I’m pleased that I came up with a version that my whole family loved! I even liked it and I’ve never been a huge chicken pot pie fan.

This would be a great meal for holiday gatherings or when you are planning to have house guests as you can do all the prep in advance.

Here’s how I implemented my make ahead plan:

(Note: This made three 9-inch pies. So these proportions will feed a crowd. I even had some filling leftover that served as leftovers on top of egg noodles.)

Two Days Ahead: I cooked up a bunch of chicken leg quarters in my crockpot overnight so that I would have plenty of good meat and broth.

The Day before: I deboned my chicken and strained my broth. Then I assembled my veggies – garlic, onions, celery, carrots, potatoes, corn and peas. I prepared the filling by sautéing the onions and celery in olive oil with salt and pepper. Then I added 4-5 minced cloves of garlic along with the carrots and potatoes. After those had sautéed for a few minutes I sprinkled on about 2-3 tbls of flour and stirred until the vegetable mix was coated and all the flour was absorbed. Then I poured my chicken broth over the mix and added 3 cups of heavy cream. I let it simmer for a few minutes until the sauce began to thicken. Then I turned off the heat and let it cool. The veggies don’t need to be cooked all the way through at this point as it will finish cooking the day of. Once cooled I poured it all in my big crockpot and stirred in my shredded chicken meat. Then it went in the fridge overnight.

Next I prepared the crust. I used a recipe for freezer biscuits that I modified to use as a pie crust topping instead. Mix 6 cups of flour, 2 tbls baking soda, 1 tsp salt, 1 tbls sugar and stir in 4 cups of heavy cream. Let the dough rest for about 10 minutes after you’ve mixed it together. Then divide it in thirds and pat it out into three rough 10-inch circles about 1/2 inch thick. Be sure that the circles are big enough to go over the edges of your pie plate. Lay the dough out on cookie sheets and cover with wax paper or greased plastic wrap and freeze overnight.

The Day of: Pull the crock pot out of the fridge and set it to cook on high for about four hours. The veggies will finish cooking and then you’ll only need about 20 more minutes in the oven to cook the dough.

About a half our before you want to eat, fill your pie pans about 2/3 full with your hot, steamy filling from your crockpot. Add your frozen dough topper and cook each pie separately on 400 for 20 minutes. It’s not a bad idea to put a jelly roll pan under your pie plate just in case you accidentally overfill the pie plate and the sauce spills over like mine did. Your chicken out pie should cook up beautiful and tasty.

Now eat up and enjoy your guests! Your work is done.

Bagel French Toast

I was looking to make something special for breakfast the last snow day. I raided the freezer and pulled out a package of cranberry bagels. What could I make ahead with those? Hmmm. Baked French Toast it is.

Butter a casserole dish and line it with bagels. I broke mine open and scattered them about.

Mix up some French Toast batter. For a whole package of bagels you’ll need about 3 cups of milk, 6-8 eggs, 1 tsp of vanilla, 2 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp nutmeg. Mix it up. Pour it over the bagels. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Add some cream or milk in the morning if most of the liquid is absorbed and bake at 350 for about 35 minutes or until the mixture is set. Drizzle with syrup and enjoy.


(The other casserole pictured here is French Toast for my allergy kid who can’t have the regular stuff.)

Banana Blueberry Muffins

Saturday has become my baking day. I’ve been making the standard muffin recipe in my King Arthur Flour cookbook but I decided to change it up this week and the results were delicious.

Only two words are needed to sdescribe these muffins – Banana Blueberry! Mmmm.

This recipe makes about 12 muffins.

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbl baking powder

2 cups blueberries

Mix dry ingredients.

In a separate bowl mix the following:

2 eggs

3/4 cups milk

1/4 cup oil

2 frozen bananas, thawed and mashed

Stir all the wet ingredients until well mixed. Add the wet to the dry stirring for about 20-30 seconds. The less you stir the less dense your muffins will be. 

Pour into muffin cups. I like to use reusable silicone cups which I spray with a little bit of olive oil. Bake at 400 for 20-22 minutes. 

I also made this same recipe with chocolate chips instead of blueberries and it was equally delicious.