Instant Pot Whatever You Have Geek Stew

The first time I made this delicious and hardy beef stew recipe, I barely had any vegetables on hand.   I decided to go for it anyways, inspired by one of my favorite childhood stories Nail Broth.  So this recipe will vary slightly depending on what you have.    The basics are the same though… kind of like making vanilla ice cream.    Using organic veggies increasing the flavor exponentially.

Thanking the cow for its service to you is also and awesome thing to do.  🙂

Geek Stew!

Ingredients

1 lb of grass fed stew meat (because we want the cows to be happy)

2 cups water (if you add more veggies, reduce this slightly)

2 tablespoons olive oil (oil is a must to prevent foaming within Instapot)

1 package Lipton Onion Soup Mix (this is the secret ingredient)

2 cups chopped celery (include the leaves for intense flavor)

1 8 oz package of baby bella mushrooms

6 small potatoes – quartered

1 teaspoon baking soda (with one cup water)

2 tablespoons cornstarch (with two tablespoons water)

Salt and Pepper to taste

Soak the stew meat in a mixture of 1 cup water and 1 teaspoon baking soda for 20-30 minutes.  This will make the meat easier to brown.

Set the Instant Pot to saute and add the olive oil.    When oil is hot, add beef and stir to brown.   Add salt and pepper as desired.   Adding too much meat at same time may steam instead of brown, so try to add gradually if possible.

Once meat is nicely browned, add water then stir in the package of onion soup mix.  This adds the perfect ratio of onion flavor and creates a wonderful bouillon.   Add any veggies you’d like at this point and mix.

Cancel saute mode and set your Instapot valve to seal. Press the meat stew button.

Your Instant Pot will start cooking for 35 minutes after pressure is reached, which could take anywhere from 5-10 minutes,  maybe even longer.   After cooking time is finished, many folks recommend natural release for better flavor, it’s up to you.   I have tested this recipe twice with manual release.    Before opening the Instant Pot, make a cornstarch slurry by whisking 2 tablespoons of cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water.    Mix the slurry into the pot to thicken stew.   Let cool and enjoy with your favorite book, person or Netflix show.   The flavor is wonderful and ever so comforting… just like my mom never made.    I always hated stew when I was a kid, so no happy memories there.

The lid is opened and wow!!! Add your slurry and mix well. The more moisture in your veggies, the less water you need to add. I would start with 2 cups minimum.

Let me know in the comments any variations you might have tried!  Like throwing in a regular size  can of tomato sauce… I did this last night and it was crazy good!

Good Nutrition Is An Uphill Climb

Each day, consumers are offered more and more ways to make better choices and eat healthier, which will hopefully lead to a longer life with less visits to the doctor. Organic versions of our favorite foods are increasingly popular and available, even foods that you didn’t even think could be organic are showing up on supermarket shelves.   While walking through the beautiful pristine isles of Target recently, I spotted an organic version of Capri Sun fruit drink.  Yes, the sugar and chemical mix of yesteryear is now organic.  But is it any better for you?  Healthy labels may sound great, but more choices actually means more research for the person trying to do the right thing.   As it’s often noted, food has a story and you should know the characters involved and the journey its made, before it ends up in your stomach.

Lets start with the ever popular “organic” label that’s increasingly making its way onto every edible product there is.  Many might automatically assume that seeing this indicator of strict standards means you’re doing something good… the prices certainly allude to this.  However, choosing organic simply means you’re getting something that was created, raised or processed in a certain way, it doesn’t mean you should be putting it your body.   Using our first example as a start, most would agree that sugar is the mother of all evil, especially when it comes to kids.   It’s no secret that childhood obesity is a huge problem in the United States.  If the thought of spoon feeding your kid 4 teaspoons of sugar makes you cringe, that’s exactly what your doing when you give your kid a single pouch of this “organic” Capri Sun juice (16 grams is roughly 4 teaspoons).   Not so great anymore is it?  Hey at least it inspired me to write this little blog post.

For dinner, you might decide that some organic chicken might be great for your family since the label clearly says “no hormones or antibiotics used.”  First of all, half that label is redundant since by law hormones aren’t allowed to begin with.   They might as well say “no razor blades” also.   Secondly, while an organic chicken may be antibiotic free, or even “cage free,” unless it’s actually “free range,” as in running around in the sunshine, you’re eating an animal that was probably grown indoors within a ventilated aluminum tube, somewhat like an airplane fuselage.   Consuming this creature means you’re also “downloading” any stress related bio-toxins produced as a result of living such a miserable existence.  We all know that stress is one of the leading contributors to cancer and other illnesses, and this is a great way to experience it chemically.  At least you didn’t have to actually get in a car accident or juggle a family and a career to produce it yourself.   Remember that organic doesn’t necessarily mean humane.  The same goes for beef and pork.

Of course there’s also the subliminal type of misleading information simply associated with a brand itself.  You might automatically assume that shopping at a particular grocery chain means you’re eating organic and healthy, because that’s the image they want popping into your head.  Assumptions are the mother of all fuck-ups and in the food industry they are counting on it.  Take for example a little survey I did on my own.  I asked my friends and family what’s the first thing they thought of when I mentioned the Publix Supermarket product line Greenwise.   Almost all of them replied “organic” immediately.   This is actually far from the case, as the supermarket chain states on their own website:

Publix website page which states the requirements for Greenwise branding. Note that colors from “natural” sources are acceptable and that a vegetarian diet in no way means “grass fed” since grains are also plant based. A product only needs to meet one requirement to receive the Greenwise label.

While these sound like pretty good requirements at first,  giving it more thought one might realize according to their own definition, foods colored from crushed bugs is perfectly acceptable… because it’s natural.  And yes, this is actually a thing, it’s called cochineal.   Natural doesn’t mean healthy or even safe, ask anyone that’s ever had lead or mercury poisoning, which are very natural elements found on our planet.  Also, notice that Greenwise products need to adhere to only one of those requirments, not all of them.   One, in particular, is rather disturbing to me because it uses the word “claim.”  In other words, anything they want to say but it may not be true in the least.

A great example of all this confusion can be found with the very pricey Greenwise Raw Shrimp, which besides containing sodium sulfite, a “natural” preservative, is not organic, is from Indonesia, and is “sustainably” raised.   What does that even mean overseas?   Consumer Reports did some kick ass research regarding shrimp safety and the issues surrounding imports, and it wasn’t pretty.  The lesson here is to not assume anything, regardless of the brand, and read the ingredients even when you think there’s only shrimp in that bag.   Save your money and buy the regular Publix brand shrimp instead, which doesn’t have sodium sulfite… uh, well, they use trisodium phosphate instead, an ingredient commonly found in laundry detergent, stain remover and degreasers.  It makes the shrimp look shiny and causes them to absorb more water, which is helpful when you’re selling them by weight.  And the best part is you can buy it at Home Depot.   Yeah these are the same people that sell Greenwise products.

Kind of feels weird that you have to pay almost double NOT to have this put on your shrimp by Publix Supermarkets.

These are just a quick few examples of how a consumer needs to do their homework and know what they’re putting into their facial orifice.    Don’t let your assumptions get the best of you and don’t trust others to do the research.  I repeat, don’t trust anyone.  I love doing research (can you tell?) but even I get overwhelmed at times.   You’re not going to get it right a hundred percent of the time, but you’ll at least have a fighting chance to mitigate the effects of all the other crap we’re exposed to.  Know how to spot bullshit by reading between the lines, especially with generalizations that mean little or nothing.   Become your own “food attorney” while reading lists of ingredients and keep in mind that when push comes to shove, everyone is trying to make a buck. Don’t let it be at the expense of your health or the ones you love.

 

 

Instant Pot Spaghetti with Mushrooms

I’m a huge lover of Italian Food and the man in my life recently gave me an Instant Pot pressure cooker for my birthday.    So I figured what could taste better than spaghetti infused with its own sauce?   Turns out nothing much, it’s freaking delicious.   I searched online for some recipes, and found one, but I tweaked it so much I decided to create my own version and publish it on my blog.    So here it is, the most delicious and fast Instant Pot Spaghetti recipe in the world.  It feeds four easily (even more if you portion like a human)  and will run you about $50 if you follow recipe exactly.

It’s a computer controlled pressure cooker and so much more!

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Grilled Steak Condo Style

steak like it was meant to be enjoyed

Living in a condominium has its perks… being able to grill your favorite steak on a barbecue isn’t one of them.  Sure, your neighbors might not have a problem with open flame, tanks of fuel, and smoke flooding into your living room through open windows (as nature finds a breeze way,) but the local fire department does.  Chances are your association rules also prohibit this prehistoric method of preparing a meal, one that seems to give everyone the warm and fuzzies.   If you’re like me, you also have only electric appliances as natural gas in the attention deficit age of Instagram and Facebook doesn’t mix well with high population density.

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My Favorite Chimmichurri Recipe

 

For those of you that have never heard of chimmichurri, it’s a topping traditionally used for meats in Latin American cuisine.  I’m addicted to the stuff.  In the past I had tried so many chimmichurri recipes, and none of them gave me the flavor I’ve experienced in really great Churrascarias (all you can eat steak houses) .    They all tasted like they were missing something, so I decided to just experiment until I found the right combination that was simple to make, but hit a home run for my taste buds.   I made this for a work event once, and my co-workers divided it amongst themselves to take home afterwards.   I use it on steak, chicken, mix it in rice and even scrambled eggs.  It also makes a great topping for sliced french bread.  Yum!!  The best part is, you can add additional ingredients like red pepper flakes if you like a kick, but I find the garlic already does that.

It keeps for about a week in fridge.  Enjoy!!

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Where Shopping Should Be A Pleasure

Our society has changed lots in the last 100 years, technology is often the focus of these changes and many times blamed for them.   From workplace automation killing jobs formerly filled by humans, to the decline of bookstores thanks to e-readers, technology is almost always left holding the candlestick in the library with some rope for good measure.  Recently Amazon.com and other online retailers have been designated the destroyer of brick and mortar stores, the likes of which we haven’t seen in decades.    Macy’s, BestBuy, Sears and even Walmart aren’t immune to the sting of e-commerce.    But what if this change or evolution in the way consumers buy goods is only partially due to technology and more of a symptom of something bigger and greater?  While everyone is trying to compete with online giants like Amazon and increase their online presence, perhaps they should be looking no further than their own stores and realize they forgot how to do something.    Customer service.

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Having An NVE (Near Vegetarian Experience)

very chicken tasting chikin’ sandwhich

Everything in life is a journey, and I concluded a very positive and eye opening one this spring.   I spent almost four months as a quasi vegetarian, eating absolutely no beef, pork or chicken (not including eggs), in an effort to rid my body of toxins and a lot of guilt.   While home sick one winter day (technically speaking) in Miami, I decided to watch a documentary on NetFlix called Food Inc.    While not entirely about the low standards regarding animal welfare, the film really exposed what’s wrong with our food system in general.   I felt sick to my stomach after watching how processed our food is, how horrible many of the animals and people in the industry are treated, and how big business has done away with small farmers as we once knew them.  After the film was over I literally got up and proceeded to throw stuff away from my fridge.    I didn’t want anything to do with processed lunch meats or anything else that was “factory farmed”.  I instantly decided to become a vegetarian and set out to let everyone know what I just learned.

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