Chicken Fajita Chowder in the Instant Pot

It’s been a bad couple of weeks around here, so comfort food that is nearly effortless is definitely dominating the menu. I adapted my Chicken Fajita Chowder for the Instant Pot. It’s warm, slightly spicy, and the perfect one-pot meal. It starts by sautéing seasoned chicken, onions and garlic:

Then you just dump the remaining ingredients in the IP:

Just 10 minutes of high pressure later, and dinner is served:

 

      • Chicken Fajita Chowder

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          Ingredients

        • 3 T. all-purpose flour
        • 1 envelope fajita seasoning, divided
        • 3 or 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
        • 4 T. olive oil
        • 1 medium onion, chopped
        • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
        • 15-1/4 oz. can Fiesta Corn
        • 15-oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
        • 4-1/2 oz. can Mexican-style stewed tomatoes, undrained
        • 4-1/2 oz. can chopped green chiles
        • 3 c. chicken broth
        • 1 c. instant brown rice, uncooked
        • 10-3/4 oz. nacho cheese soup
        • Garnish: sour cream, shredded cheese, crushed tortilla chips, green onion
          Procedure

        • Combine flour and  2 tablespoons of the fajita seasoning in a large zip-loc bag. Add cubed chicken and give the bag a good shake to coat the chicken.
        • Set Instant Pot to Sauté setting. Add olive oil, and when hot, add the chicken to the pot. Sauté, stirring occasionally until chicken is lightly browned (Some of the flour coating will probably stick to the bottom of the IP. This is normal, and will be fixed in a minute).
        • Add onions and sauté until soft, about 2 minutes, then add the garlic and cook an additional minute. Add the chicken broth to the pot and use a spoon or spatula to help deglaze the bottom of the pot (i.e scrape the bottom of the pot with your spoon to release those browned bits).
        • Add the remaining fajita seasoning, corn, black beans, stewed tomatoes, green chiles, and rice to the pot.
        • Put the lid on the IP and switch it to manual. Set timer for 10 minutes at high pressure. When the time is complete, do a quick pressure release. Stir in nacho cheese soup. Serve with desired garnishes.

Yep, I Went Back Down the Rabbit Hole–My Air Fryer Review and What You Need to Know Before You Buy

Oh y’all…..The Instant Pot suckered me in, and as such, I somehow convinced myself that if the IP was that cool, surely the air fryers everyone was talking about would be a good investment. After Christmas, I finally caved and bought one, and after playing with it for a week, I’m ready to tell ya what I think of these doo-dads. To clarify, I wanted a way to still give my family agreeable foods that also err on the healthier side. I am trying to get back on my wellness goals, and I figured that, if this thing worked, it would be worth the investment.

The above picture shows the air fryer I bought, but with so many brands and sizes, I encourage you to do your research, because these things can range from $70 to $300 bucks.

Here’s a basic rundown on my pros and cons:

Cons

  • Appliance size. These are fairly large, but I have room in a cabinet to store it. If you are limited on space and don’t want this thing sitting on your counter, consider storage options before you buy. The only appliances I let sit out are my husband’s coffee maker, Cuisinart food processer, and my professional KitchenAid mixer. The space footprint on this model is about that of an average stockpot/Dutch oven to give you a reference.
  • Small cooking volume. With a family of five, three of which are hungry men, the cooking capacity of mine is on the small size (I think 4.2 quarts is what this is). When I do use it, I have to cook in batches if I’m cooking for all of us. You can’t crowd it too much or you won’t get the desired result. However, for smaller families or couples, this would work. I don’t mind doing batch cooking on some things, but if I could go back, I would invest in the largest capacity I could find. So, understand the size of your prospective model, and go big if you can.
  • It has limitations, and if you are one of those people who thinks the IP should be able to cook alllllll the things at once like a magician, you might need to adjust your expectations. This is not a substitute for deep-fryer perfection results (especially for super-wet stuff), but with some exceptions, you can get good results for many things. You have to use some cooking commonsense when it comes to managing your expectations.

Pros

  • It works! (assuming you managed those expectations) When used correctly, I’ve been able to achieve results 100 times better than “oven” frying. While I would not make my Mom’s fried chicken in this thing, I am able to achieve crispy foods with great texture depending on the recipe.
  • I’m able to use just a few pumps of olive oil spray, so definitely calorie savings all around, which is exactly what I hoped.
  • It’s fast to preheat and cook. I think there is a learning curve to these if you aren’t on confident cook. That’s ok, though. You can check the food as you cook, without much disruption to the process.
  • Superior performance, taste, and texture when it comes to frozen fries and snacks when compared to oven baking. Additionally, my own experiments produced good results.

So, the first time I used it, I made the Pickle-Brined Chicken Tenders from the Skinny Taste website. I didn’t get a picture, but I prepared the recipe as directed and sprayed them with a few pumps of Pam olive oil spray. They were delicious, crispy, and perfectly acceptable to both me and the kids. That will definitely make it into the rotation. Next, I tossed in half a bag of Alexa sweet potato fries:

I sprayed them with a few pumps of the olive oil spray, cooked them at 390 for 8 minutes, gave the basket a good shake, and cooked for about 5-6 more minutes. The result was perfect for my taste, and I ate the whole plate (then promptly ran out and bought more).

Next, I didn’t get a pic, but I cooked a bag of frozen Crab Rangoon, which also turned out well as far as texture and time, which has me already scheming for Super Bowl possibilities. Additionally, I have teenage boys and the prospect of making mozzarella sticks or other snacks fast and with good results makes me happy.

Finally, I decided to test Brussels Sprouts. I just halved them, added few sprays of olive oil, salt, then 8 minutes on 360. I gave the basket a good shake to toss, then cooked 3 more minutes:

So, final thoughts. This thing definitely was worth the investment, but I also knew what I was getting into based on my research. I am already thinking about Asian hot wings, roasted sweet potatoes, and many more experiments on the horizon. I also think this will give me options to prepare for myself faster and lighter portions of traditional dinners that are for the hubs and the Heathens. Overall, though the size of my model is the biggest con, I am happy I bought an air fryer.

**Remember, my opinions and reviews are all my own. No one solicited me or gave me free stuff, because I’m just not that cool, y’all. There are no affiliate links on my blog, and if you see an ad, that comes from WordPress, not me, because my blog is from their free-hosting plan.**

School Projects Are No Fun—But Dinner Sure Is Tasty

I’ve been in school-project-hell this weekend. G-Man has a social studies project due in a couple of weeks, which any mom knows means that we all can kiss our free time goodbye until it’s done.

I really, really struggle with school projects, to the point that I truly dread when they come up. I want my kids to do them on their own, because that is the whole point, right? However, in the age of growing parent competitiveness (i.e ridiculousness), I learned early on that some parents’ idea of “helping” their kids is actually doing the project for them. I hate seeing super-slick class projects that you just know were done more by the parents than the child, if not in their entireity. Normally, I shrug it off, but I can’t help wondering if my child’s honest effort will be compared to their peers, and found lacking because I didn’t ensure all that glossy polish by practically doing the final product myself. Further, I don’t want my kids to feel substandard because their classmates’ projects look like professional advertising materials, while ours reflects the true work of a 4th grader. I am in a constant battle to figure out how to help my child be successful, without crippling him by doing too much. I wish I had the answer, but in the meantime, I still bleeping hate school project time.

In semi-related news, I tried a new recipe last night that I found in this month’s Southern Living. This King Ranch Mac and Cheese seemed like just the kid-friendly meal I needed to take the sting off our marathon report-writing session. This was dang tasty, and much faster to put together than I anticipated. The boys raved about it, so you know it’s not just the pregnancy talking.

King Ranch Mac and Cheese (From Jan/2012 Southern Living)

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  • Ingredients
  • 1/2 (16-oz.) package cellentani pasta (I couldn’t find this at Wally World, so I used ¾ of a 16-oz. box of elbow macaroni)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 (10-oz.) can diced tomatoes and green chiles (I used the “mild” Rotel to make this more Heathen-friendly)
  • 1 (8-oz.) package pasteurized prepared cheese product, cubed
  • 3 cups chopped cooked chicken
  • 1 (10 3/4-oz.) can cream of chicken soup
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 oz.) shredded Cheddar cheese

    Preparation

  1. 1. Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare pasta according to package directions.
  2. 2. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and bell pepper, and sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in tomatoes and green chiles and prepared cheese product; cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes or until cheese melts. Stir in chicken, next 4 ingredients, and hot cooked pasta until blended. Spoon mixture into a lightly greased 10-inch cast-iron skillet or 11- x 7-inch baking dish; sprinkle with shredded Cheddar cheese.
  3. 3. Bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes or until bubbly.

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By following this dinner with our first King Cake of the season, I got to relish in a little “you’re the best mom ever!” That is, until I announced that it was shower time…then I was back to being Captain Meanie-Pants.

But, I’m cool with that.

The Heathens’ Favorite Cookies…Or An Excuse to Play Off Laziness as Mental Illness

My picky eaters are picky about everything, including their cookies…the freaks. But, even as they beg me for Happy Meals instead of nice, home-cooked dinners, they still think I am Super-Mom when I make their favorite cookies. These cookies are unusual, because they have an almost cake-like texture. When I’m asked to bring a snack to school, this is what the boys clamor for.

 I like them, because they only require one bowl, and practically no work or measuring.

Yes, I am so lazy, sometimes even the thought of washing the extra measuring cup is enough to send me screaming from the kitchen.

We’ll call that Working Moms’ Schizophrenia.

Chocolate Cake Cookies

  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 stick butter, room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (the real stuff, don’t even buy the imitation stuff…you’re better than that)
  • 1 (18-ounce) box devil’s food cake mix
  • Powdered sugar

Directions

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2) In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add the egg and vanilla extract, beating until well-combined. Beat in the cake mix.

3) Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours. Roll the chilled batter into tablespoon sized balls and then roll them in powdered sugar. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet, 2 inches apart. Bake 12 to 15 minutes. The cookies will remain soft, and have a cake/brownie type of texture. Cool completely on wire racks.

Just avoid those guys with the butterfly nets.

Fake It Till Ya Make It–Dinner Rescue

Living deep in the heart of BFE (and if you don’t know what that means, google it), I cannot just run to the grocery store on a whim.  Every time I need to go anywhere, I can bank on at least on a 30 minute drive…one way. It’s my lot in life, the bane of my existence and a constant source of road rage on two-lane highways from hell.  Add in this oh-so-fun event back in November:

057

and I find driving around town stressful to say the least, but that’s a story for another day.

When I do shop for groceries, I have to plan meals in two week blocks, so I can minimize extra trips to the store. We only have one car, so even if I was willing to burn an hour’s worth of gas and drive time, I hardly ever have the actual car to do so. If you really want to make Bayou Husband snarly, ask him to stop at the store on the way home…it’s a riot.

This shopping plan has worked thus far, but I’ve also learned to expect the I unexpected. For those two week blocks, I may have planned  gorgeous, delightful homemade meals from scratch, but inevitably, I’ll have one day that blows even the best laid plans out of the water. It may be a child with a fever, or an exploding hot water heater, or even those fun times when our po-dunk town randomly shuts off the neighborhood’s water with no warning…oh good times. Every mom has those days when we just can’t seem to get things to stay on track, but we still have a family depending on us for dinner.

These days are why I always plan “the back-up meal.” This is a meal you can get on the table in less than 30 minutes, and unlike some food network chef, it will not dirty up every dang dish in your kitchen (why call it 30 minute meals, when it is 30 minutes of cooking but 1 hour of clean up?). The back-up meal is one that you plan for, you buy for, and you save it for that day when all hell breaks loose. You’ll know that day when it comes…it will be right about the time Mom goes to DEF-CON 2, and you are in danger of launching the missiles.

But most importantly, the back-up meal has to be something that the family will actually eat. I could probably toss together a quick soup and sandwich, but after Bayou Husband quit laughing, he would hand me the phone and tell me to call for pizza (well, not really, but he would give me that pitiful look like he is going to starve to death). And let’s not even talk about what the kids would do, it makes me queasy just to think about it because it would start with something like this:

noah-hand

No, the back-up meal is only a good plan if it means you still get Mom-Credit for cooking dinner.

The following dish, One Pot Pasta, is definitely a good back-up meal. Only one pot to wash? Who wouldn’t like that? I sure do. I’ve been known to throw out dishes I don’t want to wash. Once, when Bayou Husband and I lived in a tiny apartment, I forgot about some Thanksgiving leftovers hiding in the back of the fridge….for a month and a half. Needless to say, that went into the garbage, tupperware and all.

So, a meal that takes less than 30 minutes and only one pot? That is an essential in any Mom’s bag of tricks.  Pick up the stuff for this dish next time you hit the store, and wait for that inner-voice to tell you it’s time for a back-up plan. Pick up some wine while you are at it, so you can also enjoy a restorative cocktail while you whip up a home-cooked meal, even in the center of chaos.

one-pot-pasta

One Pot Pasta

  • 1  pound  lean ground beef
  • 1  small onion, diced
  • 1  (8-ounce) package sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1  teaspoon  vegetable oil
  • 2  garlic cloves, minced
  • 2  (26-ounce) jars tomato-basil pasta sauce
  • 1  cup  water
  • 1  tablespoon  dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/4  teaspoon  pepper
  • 1  (20-ounce) package refrigerated four-cheese ravioli
  • 1  cup  (4 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese

Cook ground beef in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring until it crumbles and is no longer pink; drain. Wipe Dutch oven clean.

Sauté onion and mushrooms in hot oil over medium-high heat 8 minutes or until tender. Add garlic, and sauté 1 minute. Stir in beef, pasta sauce, 1 cup water, and next 3 ingredients.

Bring sauce to a boil; add ravioli. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes or until pasta is done. Stir in cheese. Serve immediately.

If you do have that kind of day, just keep a nice back-up plan handy so that you can fake your domestic mastery. There’s always time to be Supermom for real tomorrow.