Fast from Frozen: Pressure Cooker Chicken in Duck Sauce

or how I got my husband to like frozen chicken

So once again I forgot to defrost chicken the night before, and since my husband claims the texture of frozen chicken seems off I generally have to take it out the day before so it can go in the slow cooker in the morning.  Well, some days that is just a bust.  So what can I do with frozen chicken?!  Turns out, boneless frozen chicken cooks just fine in the pressure cooker.  That's right, my beloved pressure cooker has a new purpose in life - to save me from failure to plan.  I have used it for applesauce, quick and easy risotto, pork ribs, and of course my all time favorite - corned beef (among other things).  But I had no idea it could work with frozen foods too.

I was inspired by an entry on the blog Frieda Loves Bread that used frozen chicken breasts and BBQ sauce in an electric pressure cooker.  I tried a variation on hers first with the frozen thighs, I used more sauce than she did (though less honey) and coated both sides before cooking.  I also had to shorten the time for the thighs since they are smaller.  They turned out great!  So I decided to go on a search for other sauces I could do this with and found quite a few possibilities.  I settled on a sauce inspired by Chinese Duck Sauce.  I like one pot meals that are quick and easy, this was pretty close to perfect in that sense (it lost one point because rice has to be cooked separately).  That was made up though because it was easy enough that I could do most of it with my toddler on my back in our Ergo, though she did have to step aside when we got to the pressure release part.  And the huge bonus?  My husband doesn't notice any texture differences from fresh chicken!  This was a winner all around.

Here's what I did:

4 boneless chicken thighs frozen (or 3 chicken breasts)
2 carrots peeled and cut into bite sized chunks
½ cup bell pepper (mixed varieties) cut into strips
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup pear sauce
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 teaspoons minced ginger
2 tablespoons honey

Hardware: Pressure cooker (I use a standard cooker, but an electric one would work too)

1. Put everything except the chicken and vegetables in the pressure cooker pot and heat to a simmer uncovered. Stir until everything is dissolved and well blended.  This will only take a minute or so.

2. Add the prepared vegetables to the pot.  Then place the chicken facing up in the sauce to coat the bottom with the sauce, after a minute flip over so they are upside down in the cooker in a single layer. Secure lid and bring to high pressure. Cook for 9 min for thighs, 12 min for breasts (from frozen, time is shorter from fresh - probably 4 to 5 minutes instead).

3. Remove from heat and release pressure according to manufacturer guidelines. Remove the lid and flip the chicken over again to coat with sauce, allow to sit for a couple minutes.*

Serve over prepared rice or noodles (I like white rice or udon noodles but other styles would work well too).

* If you desire a thicker sauce, remove the chicken and vegetables to another container and cover lightly with aluminum foil. Bring the liquid in the pot back up to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until it reaches desired consistency. I would recommend adding a bit of a slurry (equal parts cornstarch and water) to speed this up.

We were out of rice when we made this last but it was definitely delicious as is!


Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix

or how to thaw out on this cold winter days

Can I just say it?  I am done with the cold weather.  I have lived in Michigan most of my life and adore the change of seasons, but this winter is definitely one of the most frigid that I can remember.  We have set records for low temps as well as snowfall this year and I am ready for the thaw!  I am generally warm blooded and have been known to go the entire winter season without ever donning a sweater for fear that I would melt in the warmth.  This year I have felt like I couldn't get warm no matter what I have done on multiple occasions.  So yes - in case you are so unwise as to risk your life and ask - it is indeed cold enough for me.  I know I will be the first to complain when the temperature goes over 80 F this summer and I feel no shame, all I am asking for is a balmy 32 F so my daughter can play in the snow that is piled up around our house.  Well, enough of my rant, but I do feel a bit better getting that out.

What it comes down to is how can I possibly stay warm?!  I don't drink coffee, it upsets my stomach and the caffeine is just too much.  I love tea, both with and without honey, but can only drink so much.  I have always liked hot chocolate but the aftertaste you get from many commercially made mixes was a big turn off.  So I started looking into making my own.  It can't be that hard, right?  Well there are a ton of tasty recipes on the web.  And no doubt the very best involve melting chocolate of various types on the stove top with milk, but that is hardly portable and they simply don't have a stove top in the office.  The mix I decided on was based off of Alton Brown's recipe here.  I made a couple changes but you can't really mess too much with perfection.  The type of cocoa powder makes a big difference, I am happy with something like Hershey brand cocoa but it would be divine with higher end dutch cocoa.  The best part of this recipe is that there is no chalky or weird aftertaste, and you can always adjust the mix by adding more or less cocoa and/or sugar to your tastes.  I use a food processor or blender for this, it makes the particles smaller and they dissolve more easily, but you can simply mix by hand if you prefer.  Here's how I stay warm:

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups powdered whole milk
    (if using granulated the food processor/blender is essential)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cornstarch

Hardware: food processor or blender

1. Pour the powdered milk into the food processor and pulse until smooth.  Next add in the granulated sugar and repeat.

2. Add the remaining ingredients to the processor and pulse a few times until it appears to be consistent throughout.

3. Use 2-4 tbsp per 6 oz serving depending on how strong you like the flavor.  You can mix into hot water, hot milk for extra creaminess, or try my favorite - hot water with an ounce of heavy cream and a teaspoon of honey.  Store remaining mix in an airtight container.  


Italian Inspired Greek Yogurt Chicken

or Italy and Greece in harmony in my oven

There has been a recipe floating around the internet for "melt in your mouth chicken."  It has made appearance across the board on Facebook and Pinterest.  So I would like to preface this with saying that this is not a 100% original recipe, it is a modification on that base.  I would not describe it as "melt in your mouth" even when I did follow the original, but it is quite tasty and I believe greatly improved by a few small adjustments.  I love the use of Greek yogurt in place of the more traditional mayo in this type of baked chicken but I did not like the top texture of the mixture when baked and felt it needed a different seasoning base.  Because of this I adjusted some of the measurements and added Italian breadcrumbs both in the mix and over everything to give it a bit of a crispy top.  The mixture that tops the chicken is also great as a thin layer of filling in crescent rolls or as a white sauce for homemade pizza.

This recipe gets bonus points for very short prep time so I can spend the 45 min cook time elsewhere, it is also a "little helper" friendly prep since a toddler or kid could help stir the topping blend before applying.  Both of these greatly reduce stress in my kitchen.  I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do!  Here's how it's done:

3 large boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
3 tbsp + 1 tbsp Italian breadcrumbs
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp house seasoning

Hardware: small mixing bowl, baking dish or cookie sheet

Preheat oven to 350 F

1. Spray baking vessel with cooking oil then add the chicken breasts evenly spaced (they can touch if using a smaller dish)

2. Add the remaining ingredients (with the exception of the 1 tbsp of breadcrumbs) to the mixing bowl and stir until you reach an even consistency.  Divide the mixture between the chicken breasts and spread out to cover the top of each completely.  Sprinkle the remaining breadcrumbs over top.

3. Place in the oven and bake for 45 min or until the internal temperature is 165 F


Delicious Dill Pickle Dip

or the dip that conquered the world

I know, it has been ages since I have posted.  I have this crazy thing called a toddler that just draws all my attention away from everything else most days.  I absolutely love it.  But I do need to keep better track of my recipes and this blog helps me to do that.  t also helps me to remember just how much the act of cooking and experimentation in the kitchen helps me to relax and find balance in my life.  My darling girl is not yet 2 years old, but when she reaches that point this Spring she will be joining me in the kitchen in her learning tower.  She wants so badly to help her mama out and I can only hold her during certain things.  So in order to help myself refocus on utilizing my stress relief tools in the kitchen I am going to try to dedicate at least a little of my time back to this blog.  I hope that you all enjoy the connection and recipes I have to share as well.

I decided to make my return debut with a recipe that I have been making since November that has been getting rave reviews.  It is a perfect balance of creaminess, salt, and texture.  It is incredibly versatile and can be served in many ways.  I have to make it to bring places or I will sit down and eat the whole bowl by myself!  It has quickly become one of my top three party dips - Dill Pickle Dip (it often goes alongside my other two homemade dips/spreads fromage forte and french onion dip).  It is easy to make and easy to eat.  If you have leftovers (somehow) it makes a great sandwich spread too.  Here is how I do it:

16 ounces Sour Cream
1 package Cream Cheese (8 Oz.) softened 
Garlic Salt And Garlic Powder To Taste 
Pickle Juice from the jar of pickles used (add Until Dip Is The Right Consistency) 
Pickles (dill or bread and butter variety) 
½ tsp Dill weed 

1. Beat sour cream, cream cheese, seasonings. 

2. Gradually add pickle juice until you reach your desired consistency. 

3. Finally stir in diced dill pickles. 

4. Refrigerate for a couple hours or even overnight to enhance the flavor. Serve with rippled potato chips, veggies, or pitas

Dill pickle dip is in the top of the three part dish, 
the other two dips/spreads are fromage forte on the left and french onion on the right