Gagoots

By Sara Turnasella, “virtual intern”

The Instant Pot electric pressure cooker

The Instant Pot electric pressure cooker

As someone who is new to pressure cooking, I must say I feel like I’ve been in the dark for a very long time. I’d heard of the pressure cooker before, but never realized the effect it would have on my diet. Having the ability to cook veggies, grains, and beans quicker than I ever thought possible has been nothing short of miraculous.

When I first got my electric pressure cooker, I opened the box and was a little intimidated by it. I had never used anything like it before, and I was afraid that I would injure myself or break it somehow. But after reading through some recipes and guidelines, and watching a few instructional videos, my pressure cooker and I became fast friends.

Now I look at my frozen vegetarian burritos and think, “Wow, I can do so much better than that!” Because it is so easy to make delicious and nutrient-packed food, I sometimes find myself using my pressure cooker multiple times during the day. My energy level, mood, and overall health has been steadily increasing ever since pressure cooking has come into my life, and I couldn’t be more thrilled about it.

Here are some tips I have for anyone who is new to pressure cooking:

  • Start small! If it makes you feel more comfortable, keep things nice and simple. Try cooking something easy like greens in a little broth and your favorite spices. Learn how to make your own vegetable stock   by watching this video of Jill.
  • Be safe! Even with lots of safety features, it’s still very important to protect yourself. Make sure the lid of your pressure cooker is tilted away from you when you open it up. Even if you have opened the valve and released the steam, there will still be plenty of steam left inside and you don’t want to burn yourself.
  • Have fun! Be adventurous, and get creative with your pressure cooking. Invent your own recipes, or add a new twist on old favorites. My pressure cooker has a tendency to be very forgiving. Even if I don’t quite know what the end result will be, I know that flavors and nutrients will all be locked in.
  • Get a good pressure cooking cookbook like the one that Jill wrote, The New Fast Food. It provides advice, cooking charts and recipes that will get you up, running and using your cooker quickly. Pay attention when using the manual/cookbook that comes with the pot as the times might not be correct.

I have had so much fun playing with some of my old favorite recipes which I once so rarely had the time to make, and now can easily fit into my routine. One of those dishes is called “Gagoots”, which is Italian slang for zucchini. It can be made any number of ways, sometimes with pasta and different vegetables. My aunt makes it during the holidays, and it’s a great simple side dish: warm, comforting, and truly delicious. I can’t wait to show her how quickly I can make it now!

Gagoots                         

My aunt makes this for the holidays. It serves 4 of us easily, depending upon who is eating vegetables that day. I always do.

1 tbsp olive oil (optional)

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 onion, chopped

1 med potato, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 med zucchini, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces

1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced

1/2 tsp salt

1 bay leaf

1/2 tsp oregano

1/4 cup vegetable broth (for how to make it in the pressure cooker, watch this video)

Sauté onion in olive oi, if using, for about one minute or dry sauté with the sauté feature.  Add garlic, potatoes, and zucchini, cherry tomatoes, with 1 tbsp of the vegetable broth, and sauté for another minute. Switch to pressure cooking and add the remaining vegetable broth, bay leaf, oregano, and salt. Pressure cook for 5 minutes. Then quick release the pressure, carefully removing the lid, tilting it away from you. Remove the bay leaf.
Enjoy.

Editor’s note: I would consider this more of a summer recipe but if you live in a place such as Florida that has these vegetables in season, then cook them or wait until the summer.

The New Fast Food Recipes Work with the Instant Pot and Other Electric Pressure Cookers

When I wrote my pressure cooking cookbook The New Fast Food: The Veggie Queen Pressure Cooks Whole Food Meals in Less than 30 Minutes there weren’t very many electric pressure cookers out in the world, and there certainly weren’t any that got my attention. Many of them had nonstick inner pots and that holds very little appeal for me. Then someone told me about the Instant Pot. It has a stainless steel inner liner, and it can also saute, slow cook, steam and more. The pot works like a champ and gets the job done.

Even better is the fact that most of my recipes work well in the Instant Pot and other electric pressure cookers that have a quick release valve. These pots generally operate at a low PSI (pounds per square inch) but because it takes longer for the pressure to come up (which for folks like me who are all about speediness can be an issue) and longer for the pressure to come down with a natural pressure release, the recipes work except for some of the very fast-cooking vegetables which can easily get overcooked in just an extra 30 seconds at pressure. Vegetables such as summer squash, green beans, asparagus, tender broccoli, bok choy and some others can get obliterated easily in the heat of the pressure cooker so take note if you are an electric pressure cooker user. Otherwise, make soup, stew, chili, grains, beans and other dishes in your electric pressure cooker with ease and my recipes.

I offer a $45 discount plus free shipping on the Instant Pot cookers through their website. The 6 quart 6-in-1 cooker is the preferred model right now. To get the discount, enter vegqueen at checkout.

Then get pressure cooking and enjoy time saved and great food made -fast, giving you “the new fast food”.

Pressure Cooker Soup Stock

If  you found a new pressure cooker waiting for you under your Christmas tree or Hanukkah bush, then I can help you so that you take it out of the box and use it.

My story is that the first pressure cooker I bought in 1986 came home and sat, waiting for me to use it.  On Day 13 of  a 14 day return policy, I brought it back to the store, having never even opened the box. I still wish that I had at least tried it out but fear kept me from doing so. Don’t let that be you.

Here’s what I suggest: take the cooker out of the box, skim the instruction booklet which will tell you to wash and dry the cooker. Then add 1 cup of water to your cooker and bring it to pressure. How you do that will depend upon whether you have an electric pressure cooker or a stove top model. With the electric cooker, you will need to plug it in and set the timer to at least 5 minutes.  You will hear a  noticeable clink which means that the valve shut.  After 5 minutes, practice letting the pressure out by turning the valve on top and waiting for the steam to release. It is hot, so be careful.

For the stove top cooker, add the water and lock on the lid. Put the cooker on the stove and turn the heat to high. When the little valve pops up, you have achieved pressure. Turn the heat down to maintain pressure (for as long as you like) and then remove the cooker from the heat and turn the knob or push down to release the pressure (how you do this will depend upon the make and model of pressure cooker). See my video here.

After you do the water test, I suggest that you make stock. You can watch me do that by clicking here. Here is the recipe for making stock in the pressure cooker. It is fast, easy and eliminates the need for boxed or canned stock.

New to the Pressure Cooker? Have No Fear and Make Stock

Recipe Type: Stock for Soup
Author: Jill, The Veggie Queen
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 12 cups
Making stock at home is easy. You can either save scraps (except for cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collards, cabbage and more which make stock stinky) or use the recipe below.
Ingredients
  • 1 onion, peeled and quartered
  • 2 cups leek leaves
  • 3–4 garlic cloves (optional)
  • 3 carrots, cut into chunks
  • 3 ribs (stalks) celery, cut into pieces
  • 2 bay leaves (true bay not California bay)
  • A few peppercorns or up to 1 teaspoon
  • 2 sprigs thyme or savory, or other herbs of your choosing (beware of using rosemary as it can be overpowering)
  • 10–12 cups pure water, depending upon the size of your cooker
Instructions
  1. Put all the ingredients in the pressure cooker. Lock the lid in place. Bring to high
  2. pressure over high heat. Lower the heat to maintain high pressure. When five minutes is up, turn off the heat and let the pressure come down naturally.
  3. Remove the lid, tilting it away from you.
  4. Allow the stock to cool slightly. Then pour the stock through a strainer into containers (not directly into zippered bags).
  5. When you get to the vegetable matter, press it against the strainer to extract all the liquid and flavor.
  6. Cool and refrigerate for a few days, or keep in the freezer for up to 3 months. I like to freeze in ice cube trays for when I only need a few tablespoons of stock or in 2 cup portions.

After you  make stock let me know how it goes. You can also make stock specific to the soup that you are making such as garlic stock, pea stock, corn stock or whatever your imagination can think up.

Use your pressure cooker and have fun doing it.

Fagor Duo 8 quart pressure cooker

Fagor Duo 8 quart pressure cooker

Pressure Cooker Excitement or Fear? You Choose…

Pressure Cooker Excitement or Fear? You Choose…

Pressure Cooker Friend or Foe?

I just told the proprietor of a cooking store that if I had one dollar for each person who told me that they are afraid of the pressure cooker, that I would likely be retired and sitting on the beach somewhere. Even after teaching pressure  cooking for more than 15 years, I still  have a tough time convincing some people that pressure cooking is safe and easy. Not only that, you can save time and money and produce incredibly tasty food easily.

So, where do you stand on pressure cooking? Do you love your sleek, shiny “modern” (no jiggler) pressure cooker? Or have you let it languish in a box in the back of the closet or garage where you dare not go?

Continue reading

Pressure Cooker Brown Rice and Lentils

Pressure Cooker Brown Rice and Lentils

I recently spoke to a group of vegans, vegetarians and those who want to eat more vegetarian food at Osmosis Day Spa and Sanctuary. I had a great time and got such wonderful questions. One of them was, “Why should I cook my rice (or maybe anything else) in a pressure cooker when I already know how to cook it on the stove top and time isn’t an issue?”

That question made me think, which I have become accustomed to doing well on my feet. Here’s what my answer was and perhaps it will provide yet another reason to purchase a pressure cooker, if you’ve been on the fence about doing so.

Time is not the only consideration, or reason to use the pressure cooker – it is just one reason. Equally as important for me, being the “green” eco-friendly woman that I am, is the energy savings resulting from using a  pressure cooker versus cooking on the stove top. Brown rice takes just 22 minutes at pressure. Depending upon how much rice you are cooking at once, and let’s figure that it’s 2 cups so that you’ll have some leftover, it will take about 5 minutes to get the cooker to pressure at high heat and then 22 minutes at lower heat. And about 10 minutes with no heat at all while the pressure drops.If you figure that no matter how you cook your rice you need to boil it first, we can subtract out the initial 5 minutes which might actually take longer on the stove top since you need more liquid than in the pressure cooker.  When cooking the rice you have a 50% energy savings.

Different types of brown rice require different cooking times. For instance Lotus Foods brown jasmine rice takes 35 minutes on the stove top so requires only 18 minutes at high in the pressure cooker. I recently taught Lotus Foods co-owner Caryl Levine how to cook that rice in her unused pressure cooker. We used 2 cups of the rice, 1/2 cup red (whole, not split) lentils, a few cloves of garlic and a generous tablespoon of ginger and it made an incredible pot of rice and lentils, which makes cooking rice in the pressure cooker even better than stove top cooking since it’s easy to mix them up.

I use my “magic” formula of adding less liquid for each cup of rice and then add an equal amount of liquid as the lentils so that they’ll rehydrate well. Caryl was impressed, and was thrilled that the dish turned out

so well. What an aromatic and tasty rice that is.

Lotuf Brown Rice

Pressure Cooker Brown Rice and Lentils Recipe

Makes 4 to 6 servings

1 teaspoon olive or other oil (optional)

1 tablespoon finely minced ginger

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups Lotus Foods jasmine rice

1/2 cup whole red, French green or black beluga lentils

2 3/4 cups liquid (broth or water)

salt or tamari, to taste

Heat the pressure cooker over medium heat. Add the oil, if using, and when it’s hot, add the ginger. Saute for 1 minute and then add the garlic and stir. Add the rice and stir once. Add the lentils and liquid. Lock the lid on the pressure cooker and bring to high pressure over high heat for 18 minutes. Lower the heat just enough to maintain high pressure. When the time is up, remove the cooker from the heat and let the pressure come down. Remove the lid, carefully tilting it away from you. Taste and add salt or tamari, if desired.

Moreover, if you add any seasonings, herbs or spices, your rice tastes better than it does on the stove top because the pressure in the cooker infuses flavor into your food. 

So to answer this question about cooking rice in the pressure cooker, why wouldn’t I do it?

For that I have no answer, while on my feet or not.

I’d love to hear what you think about pressure cooked brown rice. Or cooking brown rice at all.

Are You Afraid of the Pressure Cooker?

I am diligently working on my pressure cooking ebook titled, The New Fast Food: The Veggie Queen Pressure Cooks Whole Food Meals in less than 30 Minutes. I know that the title is more than a mouthful but if you just remember The New Fast Food, The Veggie Queen and Pressure Cooks, or any combination of those words, that will be fine.

Since I am immersed in polishing the book, I’m talking a lot about it. Yesterday I attended a publishing conference through the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association at the amazing Preservation Park in Oakland.

I found out a number of interesting things about people and their perception of pressure cookers and the current state of pressure cooking.

Here are some of the questions:

  • Can you buy one that’s not made of aluminum?
  • Are they safe?
  • Do they blow up?
  • Do you have to buy a big one?
  • Can you use it on a boat?
  • Why do I want to use it instead of my slow cooker?
  • What foods do you cook in there?

There were likely more questions but I have since forgotten them, as my head was filled with publishing information throughout the day.

Let me briefly answer the questions that were posed. Do you have any questions of your own? If so, please post them below.

Can you buy pressure cookers that aren’t aluminum? Yes, you can. In fact, all of the pressure cookers that I own and use are made of stainless steel. Most of the modern pressure cookers which have a spring-valve, which is what I recommend, are made of stainless steel. Likely, almost all the new pressure cookers designed  for cooking, and not canning, are made of stainless steel.

Are they safe? Do they blow up?
The cookers are very safe if you follow safety precautions such as adding enough liquid and not forcing open the lid before the pressure is released. Unlike the older model cookers, these pressure cookers usually have at least 4 safety release valves which cause the steam to come out places other than the top. Since there is no longer any jiggler to hiss and twist, nothing can blow off. Or at least that’s my experience with all my various classes over the years.

Can I use it on a boat?
The pressure cooker is a perfect piece of cookware for a boat since it has a lid that locks on. So no matter how much movement there is, the food won’t come sloshing out. Also, since food cooks in 50 t0 70% less time, you use much less fuel which is often a consideration when boating. Additionally, many of the foods that taste great in a pressure cooker such as soup, stew, chili and curry are all wonderful one pot meals.

Why do you want to use it instead of your slow cooker?

The slow cooker is great if you like to plan in advance. I find that the food in the slow cooker has muddled flavors which is just fine for some foods such as chili but not as good for mixed dishes with vegetables where you want all the flavors to be bright. The  pressure cooker cooks in an air-free environment which helps lock in colors and flavors and helps preserve nutrients.  Also, your food will cook quite quickly so you don’t have to think in advance. You can wait until later in the day and use pantry items to make a great meal.

What foods do I cook in the pressure cooker?

I do most of my cooking in the pressure cooker these days. Of course it doesn’t bake or toast but that’s just a small part of cooking.

I cook whole grains such as brown, red, pink or black rice, quinoa, barley, steel cut oats, all my legumes, beans, pea and lentils in about 70% less time than stove top cooking, vegetables and many mixed dishes that contain variations on these. Currently I am eating one of my favorite dishes: Breakfast potatoes, tofu and vegetables which I also make without the tofu, substituting tempeh, or just the potatoes and vegetables. I make vegetable stock weekly in my pressure cooker which has likely saved me hundreds of dollars each year of using my cooker.

That’s probably enough Q and A for today. Please post any questions that you have below.

I hope to start sharing some of my ebook with you very soon so that I can continue my quest to have you start using a pressure cooker to improve your health and that of the planet, as you save time, money and energy using a pressure cooker.