Cajun 15 Bean Soup in the Instant Pot (Updated)

I survived Thanksgiving week, which ended up being a relaxed, fun holiday despite the fact that I made more food than any reasonable person should. We ate leftovers for days, and I cranked out 4 big casseroles for the freezer with the remaining turkey. For the holiday, my sister brought a Honey-Baked Ham, and afterward, we froze the ham bone (that still had a good chunk of meat on it) for later use.

A leftover ham bone (or leftover ham in general) is the perfect foundation for 15 Bean Soup, which I typically cook on the stovetop with the above mix. However, I decided to adapt it to the Instant Pot so I could get it done, start to finish, after getting the Heathens from school.

First, I did soak the beans for barely a couple of hours, but I think you can get by without that if necessary. I added the ham bone and rinsed beans to the Instant Pot:

Then, I added 8 cups of chicken stock. I did not add salt because the ham itself is pretty dang salty, and the seasoning packet to be added later also contains salt. I put the lid on, and set it to Manual for 50 minutes on high pressure (note–with that much liquid in the pot, it takes about 20 minutes to come to pressure, so plan accordingly). Once it beeped, I did the quick pressure release, and removed the ham bone. I carefully removed as much meat from the bone as possible, then returned the meat to the pot while discarding the bone. I then added a minced onion, three cloves of minced garlic, a can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes, the juice of a lemon, and the seasoning packet:

I put the lid back on the pot and reset it to Manual for 10 minutes. Once was it done, I did another quick pressure release, stirred, and served with cornbread:

The original recipe calls for sausage and sautéing the onion and garlic. While you can do this with sausage, ham hocks, or generally any smoked meat, I think the Instant Pot negates the need for unnecessary sautéing steps. Overall, we used up every last scrap of ham, which is a good thing because Honey-Baked Hams are not cheap…which is probably why they are so dang tasty. If you want to stretch this, you can also serve it over rice, but I like it as is and my scale could not justify any more calories…like at all…ever. If you need me, I’ll be at the gym.

15 Bean Soup in the Instant Pot/Pressure Cooker

Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 20 mins

Ingredients
  

  • 1 package Hurst's Cajun 15 Bean Soup Mix
  • 1 ham bone with leftover ham if possible, or some ham hocks
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 1 can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • juice of 1 lemon

Instructions
 

  • Remove seasoning packed from beans and set aside. If desired, soak beans for a couple of hours.
  • Place ham bone and leftover ham in Instant Pot. Add drained beans and 8 cups of chicken stock. Place lid on pot and set to Manual for 60 minutes, then do a quick pressure release. Remove ham bone from pot and remove as much ham as possible from the bone. Return ham to the pot and discard bone.
  • Add the tomatoes, onion, garlic, lemon juice, and seasoning packet to the pot and stir. Set the Instant Pot to Sauté, and cook for an additional 20-25 minutes. You can also serve this over rice.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Thanksgiving Leftover Ideas…Because It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Ok, so if you are just joining us, here are some helpful past posts regarding my favorite holiday, specifically my Thanksgiving Planner (which is still my proverbial holiday bible of organization and recipes), the What I Wish I Knew post, and if you want to see a diatribe about the disappearing Thanksgiving, click here. Thanksgiving is my personal Superbowl, and I’ve cooked for crowds both large and small. I love it, but since I cook sooooo freaking much food, I really do need leftover ideas, because the Heathens will balk at eating the same meal for three days afterwards. My leftover approach is two-fold: have a selection of dishes that I make and freeze, then a selection of meal ideas to take us through the long weekend. After spending a small fortune on Thanksgiving, you can bet your behind I’m going to stretch those leftovers like crazy.

So, here’s some options:

Make and Freeze

  • Turkey Tetrazzini–I now use Pioneer Woman’s recipe which I love. I make several batches and freeze them for easy, weeknight meals. The bacon and peas add a great dimension to the turkey and it definitely is a taste profile that is approachable to all of us. I put it in foil pans, and wrap in both foil and plastic wrap to prevent freezer burn. Just be sure to remove the plastic before baking.
  • Turkey and/or Ham Pot Pies–I confess that this is the one post-Thanksgiving dish where I take ALL the shortcuts. I use refrigerated pie crusts, canned soups, canned veggies, and fresh herbs to feel better about myself. I assemble and freeze, then defrost and bake until golden and bubbly. If you are burnt out from cooking, these are a way to get something in the freezer in 10 minutes or less.
  • The ham bone (usually with a few scraps on it)–I freeze this by itself and make 15-bean soup later (crockpot or Instant Pot).
  • Stock–I simmer the turkey carcass with aromatics and freeze for later use.
  • Soups, chili, casseroles etc–These are viable options and pretty much any chicken soup or casserole you can freeze, just swap in the turkey.

Meals

  • The Thanksgiving Panini of Awesomeness–We use the gravy like mayo, then basically pile everything on it, including turkey, ham, cranberry sauce, stuffing, mac and cheese, sweet potatoes, and more. If it’s lying around, it can go in. Grab some French bread and panini all the leftovers into delicious submission.
  • Along those lines, we slap some ham and American cheese between two glazed donuts and panini those in the waffle maker…because it’s sinful and delicious, and waffling makes everything better.
  • These Monte Cristos, but instead of tomato chutney for garnish, I sauté a little chopped (fresh) jalapeno in butter, then add leftover cranberry sauce, heating until it’s thinned down and sauce-like (think sweet and spicy). These sandwiches are much easier than a mess of the traditional frying.
  • “Funeral Sandwiches”–Google it, but ham has never been happier…except in that donut panini thing. Bear can put down a whole tray of these.
  • Similarly, mix up some turkey, dressing and cranberry sauce, fold into won-ton wrappers, and fry until golden. Wonton and egg roll wrappers offer plenty of options to mad-scientist your way through creative leftover mash-ups, just wrap the mess up and fry it!
  • Here’s some of my Food Network ideas: Stuffed Pork Chops (made these and love them),  I haven’t tried these Crispy Turkey Bites, but they are on the list, and this stuffing/mac and cheese mash-up looks so crazy, it may be good.

Overall, my best advice for leftover management is to be creative, but don’t wait until this week *cough, cough* to come up with a plan next for next year. I jot down ideas all year long as I see them, so that, come Friday, I have 10 different plans waiting in the wings so I stretch the most expensive meal of the year into endless adventures in decadence. I’ll see you at the gym come Monday.

 

Thanksgiving Menu–2017

Welp, I finalized the Thanksgiving menu. Overall, it’s all do-able, and I’ll make the mashed potatoes in the Instant Pot to free up burner space.  Otherwise, it’s going to be an adventure.

Best be hitting the gym now…

Things I’m Into This Week

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We are deep in the heart of Mardi Gras season, which means lots of crawfish, parades, and King Cakes. When I’m not overindulging, I’m enjoying time with family and friends, making memories and celebrating everything good about my neck of the woods.

In the meantime, here’s a round up of the things I’m into this week, which are clearly food related given my current climate:

Watching: A Chef’s Life. I guess I am late to this PBS gem, but I now binge watch it on the weekends. The combination of a character-driven documentary that still focuses on southern food culture is like crack for peeps like me. If you need some inspiration for your own garden, this show also delivers on that front. Bonus: It’s free to watch online via PBS.

Reading: Speaking of which, I’m reading Deep Run Roots by Vivian Howard, the chef in the aforementioned show. This cookbook is an opus, and I love every page. I found it after hearing about the documentary, and it’s one of the most well-executed cookbooks I’ve seen in a long time. However, I will give the disclaimer that it’s more of a 40/60 balance between recipes for home cooks and wannabe chef/foodies, so flip through it before you buy. I’m really particular about the cookbooks I will drop cash on (versus online spelunking for recipes), so I understand if this brick isn’t for everyone.

Listening: I’ve gone down the podcast rabbit hole, and I was probably last to know about The Sporkful. I come from a family that talks about our next meal while we are eating the current cuisine, so I appreciate a podcast that constantly looks at food and culture with the same obsessive eye that we do.

So there ya have it. A snippet of my indulgence for your foodie pleasure. Back to the kitchen, and that leftover piece of King Cake.

**Disclaimer–This post was not sponsored in any way, and none of these people know who I am. I’m not that cool, dude, just tunnel-vision afflicted.**

Super Bowl Snack–Bourbon Meatballs That Will Make People Love You More

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Ya know, for the life of me, I do not understand why the Super Bowl is on a Sunday night. Rumor has it that many of us have work and school the next day, so staying up late, partying, and feasting would probably be an event best served by a Saturday timeslot. Alas, since we all do have to do that whole responsible work/school thing, we usually keep our festivities low-key. I make some snacks, maybe have a family member or two over (if that), and put on my fat pants. I love an excuse to have a menu consist entirely of appetizers, because I like variety…and not having to construct a singular meal that at least one picky eater is going to complain about.

Rather than the fancy Crab Mornay or Lamb Chops from holiday parties, the big game is all about hearty, easy-to-make (and eat) food. These Bourbon Meatballs are just that. Stir everything together, cook for a bit, then settle down and watch your attendees go bananas over them. You can transfer them to a slow cooker to keep warm, making them an easy, hot appetizer for any event. I even took them to a Mardi Gras parade last year. My husband thinks these are manna from heaven, and no one ever needs to know how freaking easy they are. It’ll be our secret, ok?

Bourbon Meatballs

Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 30 mins

Ingredients
  

  • 1 32-ounce package frozen Italian-style meatballs thawed
  • 2 cups good-quality barbecue sauce
  • 1 cup bourbon
  • 1 cup honey
  • 3/4 cup mustard
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Instructions
 

  • In a large pot, combine barbecue sauce, bourbon, honey, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.
  • Add meatballs and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Provide toothpicks to your hungry guests and give them death threats if they even think about double-dipping.  Oh, look, there some bourbon left in the bottle! Whatever shall we do?
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

A Finished Knit…or Three, New Year’s, and Fun with Kitchen Appliances

We made it through Christmas, and despite the lingering sadness that permeated the season, we ended up with a simple yet wonderful celebration. Good food, good family and friends, and new memories. Even with the pared down festivities, I still ended up running around like a madwoman, and left too many tasks until the last minute. When I wasn’t working, I cranked out a few more knitted gifts:

mittenPattern: Antler Mittens by Tin Can Knits (Available both on their site and through Ravelry). I selected the adult medium size.

Yarn: Berroco Comfort Worsted in Burgundy Red

Needles: US Size 6 and 8 DPN’s

Notes: This was a super easy and fast project, though the decrease sections were a pain in the rear. Otherwise, great project that was a gift for the neighbor.

slippers

Pattern: Non-Felted Slippers (available on Ravelry).

Yarn: Loops & Threads Cozy Wool in Moss and Pewter.

Needle: US Size 9

Notes: The original pattern is about a US women’s size 7. I researched plenty of other Ravelry members’ project notes and upsized them to a men’s size 13 for the husband. Quick knit but it’s a tight gauge, making those decreases a little challenging.

headbandPattern: Blue Leaf Headband (available on Ravelry).

Yarn: Lionbrand Woodspun in purple colorway.

Needles: US 10-1/2

Notes: Well-written, fast pattern. I made it in less than a few hours. I followed the buttonhole option for finishing, rather than adding icord ties.

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As for me, I received the spirializer attachment for my KitchenAid, which came just in time for much-needed New Year’s resolutions. Since Mom passed, my gym time has been sadly lacking and the scale informed me this morning that something’s got to give. The fact that my jeans feel like they are cutting me in half should have clued me in sooner. I played with it last night and made spicy butternut squash fries with maple-yogurt dipping sauce. I passed on the rice and ate that with my chicken instead, then made it to the gym bright and early this morning. Baby steps indeed:

squashI’m jumpstarting this New Year with a good attitude and a list of goals a mile long. After all, as Adam Duritz once wrote: “It’s been a long December and there’s reason to believe that maybe this year will be better than the last.” I certainly hope so.

Finished Knit–Snappy Hat Version 2.0

Back in the day, I made Bean this hat, which her melon head quickly outgrew:

So, for Christmas, I decided to whip up a larger version, especially since this pattern takes no time at all. Normally, I refuse to use variegated yarns on patterns with cables because they end up looking too busy. But, alas, Bean is often a too-busy hot mess who marches to her own drum anyway:

Pattern: Snappy Hat (available on Ravelry and it’s free). This is the medium size, while the first pic/hat was the child’s size.

Yarn: Premier Yarns Deborah Norville Serenity Chunky Prints in DN 6005-15 colorway.

Needle: Both circular and DPN’s, size 10.5

Notes: After making this again, I think something about the decreases at the crown give this hat a tendency to pull back off the head. That’s not a good trait in a kids’ hat as she keeps having to pull it back down to stay on. However, it is a cute, fast hat, and ensures that all the Heathen’s get something handmade from mom this year. Let’s call that a win, even if it looks like unicorn…never mind.

Advent Traditions–Motivating the Heathens to Be a Little Less Heathen-ish

adventWhen the kids were much younger, I started an Advent tradition for our family that I hoped would bring some sanity to dinnertime. Each night at dinner, as we light the Advent candles, we take turns reading a small reflection and prayer. It helps everyone get a small daily reminder about the meaning of the season, and also helps the kids keep at least some focus away from gift fever. Last year, as I was struggling with my own inner-apathy, I added a new component to this routine.

I place a Mason jar in the center of the wreath, and next to it, I add a small container with blank slips of paper and a pen. Each day, everyone writes either a good deed that they did that day, or something for which they are grateful. They fold up the slips and place them in the jar. On Christmas morning, after the bustle gifts, we sit down to a big breakfast. While we are eating, we pass around the jar and each person takes out and reads a slip. It’s amazing to hear all of the wonderful things the Heathens did or thought, and drives home how blessed we are. The unexpected side effect is that this really motivates the Heathens to do good deeds so that they will have something meaningful to add to the jar.

This year, as we continue to grieve and heal, I hope those good deeds help bring some holiday spirit to others. In the meantime, that whole dinnertime sanity thing is still pretty much a pipe dream…

Post-Thanksgiving Rest

towelWelp, I survived a Thanksgiving marathon like no other. To be honest, we had a great holiday, and despite hosting 20 of our family and friends, things proceeded smoothly and happily. As I was giving my dad the event recap, he asked in exasperation, “Who even has 20 chairs?!?” This girl, Dad…this girl.

During the days of preparation, my neighbor’s daughter stopped by and handed me this kitchen towel as a sweet pre-holiday gift. That 11 year old was on to something. I accepted ahead of time that big holidays can be chaotic, and that if something went wrong, it really would be ok. I’m  so over the pressure for picture-perfect gatherings, and I realized that once you have that mentality, you certainly enjoy them a lot more. I enjoyed the preparations, and approached the whole she-bang with very uncharacteristic calm. We ended up with a wonderful meal, a bucket of leftovers, and happy memories. We even got to spend unexpected extra time with my husband’s great uncle, which resulted in days of happy stories and tree trimming.

As I talked about in this recent post, we made a special effort this year make the most of our leftovers and to stretch them into as many meals as possible. We did the traditional next-day paninis with everything  on them:

 

panini.JPGWe also made and froze several casseroles of turkey tetrazzini, several quarts of turkey soup, and ham pot pies.

Now, it’s time to slow down a bit, catch up on work, and enjoy the first bit of sunshine we’ve seen. Not to mention my pressing need to pick up the pace on those last-minute knitted gifts! We won’t even get into the mess that has overtaken my house. Or the laundry pile…Dear God, the laundry pile…

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving as well! I’ll just be over here, closing the laundry room door.

Holiday Budget Planning–Commonsense Tips to Keep Your Wallet from Hemorrhaging to Death

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With Halloween over, retail land has official declared it to be the Christmas season. While I hold fast to the “no decorations until after Thanksgiving,” now really is the time to think ahead in order to keep your holiday budget under control. Unless you are sitting on piles of cash, the expenses will start adding up before you know it.

  1. Spread out your decorations expenses starting this week. Inevitability, I will need to replace several strands of outdoor lights, or invest in a new extension cord. So, rather than face $100 or more in extra expenses right after Thanksgiving, I will be buying a string of lights each week. I’ll also watch the sales and gradually pick up any other decorations supplies that I know I will need. This will also save time and frustration during decorating time, as I won’t have to stop and run to the hardware store.
  2. Ditto on the stocking stuffers. The more you spread these expenses out over the next two months, the less impact it will have on your  budget later.
  3. Start guiding your kid’s expectations. If your child is clamoring for something that is either out of your budget or you won’t let into the house, you can slowly and subtly help reframe their expectations. Additionally, start making lists of things you know they want/need so that you are prepared for when a relative asks. I usually suck at this, and am always like, “Ummm…..no clue,” so I am starting this today.
  4. Plan now for all of those expenses we often forget about. Wrapping paper, the Christmas tree, holiday meals, teacher gifts, gas for travel, holiday outfits. These are the things that sneak up on you, and when you are head-scratching about where all your money went, these little extras are usually what nickeled and dimed your budget away.
  5. Stock up on non-perishables and frozen food during November. Most major grocery chains have their best mega sales this month on food and pantry staples, and when you take the time to clip a few coupons, you can take the pressure off of December.
  6. Make a list this week of gift ideas for everyone you plan to buy for, as well as a per-person money limit. When you have specific ideas as well as guideline for spending, you can take advantage of a sudden sale, clearance, or other opportunity.
  7. Understand that Black Friday is not the end-all, be-all. I do not shop on Black Friday at all, because no amount of money is worth watching people battle like gladiators over stupid stuff. Not to mention the hours wasted standing in line or sitting in horrific traffic. I think the smarter strategy is to be vigilant throughout these two months and spread expenses out.
  8. Check for deals or coupons before you walk into a store. I do this everywhere. A quick Google search on my smartphone while I am still in the parking lot takes about 20 seconds, and can save big time. Likewise, download the apps for the stores you shop at the most. Target, for example, will have one toy at 50% off every day between now and Christmas and you can find it in the Cartwheel app. Michaels’ app has great, unadvertised coupons, and Walmart’s savings catcher give you the difference if there is a lower, advertised price.

While I’m no fan of the way retailers starting cramming Christmas at us even before Halloween, I also know that most of us probably don’t like financial stress either. Start now, plan ahead, and use an extended time frame to keep your holiday budget under control.