Friday, September 21, 2012

Hearty 30 minute Chicken Soup: The Instant Pot Chronicles

Hearty, easy chicken soup can be conjured up in 30 minutes with the Instant Pot. On the stove-top, this sort of soup would normally take 3-4 hours. (By the way, thanks 'Anonymous' for your request and keep 'em coming!)

Hearty chicken soup mmm mmm yum

This is my basic recipe for chicken soup and I make it at least once a month. I make a big pot and eat it all week. I love chicken soup! It's a great cold remedy and anytime-pick-me-up. It is low-carber friendly too.

(for about 5 quarts of soup)
1 small whole chicken (4-5 lbs)
1 whole bulb of garlic
2 stalks celery
2 carrots
1 bunch parsley (about 5 stalks)
1 thumb-sized knob of ginger
2 tablespoons salt
6 cups water 


  1. Place the chicken in the Instant Pot.
  2. Cut the carrots and celery diagonally into large pieces. Cut the parsley into 2 inch long sections, stems and all.  Cut the ginger into thick slices. Separate the garlic bulb into cloves and peel the skins off each clove. 
  3. Add all the vegetables into the Instant Pot. 
  4. Add the salt and the water. 
  5. Place the lid on the Instant Pot, set the pressure valve to 'seal' and select 'Poultry', which will give 15 minutes of pressure cooking. (It will take about 15 minutes for the liquid inside to come to a boil and build up pressure, then it will pressure cook for 15 minutes. Total cook time 30 minutes).
  6. After the Instant Pot has worked it magic on the ingredients you placed inside it, fish the chicken out and set it on a large plate to cool a bit. Then pull all the meat off the bones. Return the meat to the soup as large chunks, or after chopping into smaller pieces, depending on what you prefer). 
  7. Serve warm. Happy eating!

Optional Ingredients
To this basic chicken soup recipe, you can add pretty much anything you like to jazz it up. I add serano or jalapeno peppers for some extra heat. Or ginseng root as a real pick-me-up.

Anticlockwise L-R: Parsley, carrot, celery, garlic, ginseng root, ginger root, chicken.

What's your favorite chicken soup recipe? Would love to hear from you!

Next up in the Instant Pot Chronicles - Herbal Chicken Soup that will cure almost anything, even a broken heart. :)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Rainbow Fruit Skewers for Wedding Hors D'oeuvres Reception Party

So today I did a practice run to estimate how much of each fruit would be needed for 100 fruit kebabs for Kim and Jeff's Big Day.

You will need a pack of 8 inch bamboo skewers ($3.95 free ship on Amazon)

Tell me these aren't gorgeous. :)
Here's the breakdown
  • Purple Grape - 1 lb
  • Blue Berries - 1 pint
  • Green Kiwi - 9 kiwis
  • Yellow Pineapple - 1 medium
  • Orange Cantaloupe - 1 small
  • Red Strawberries - 4 lbs

  • Chill all fruit thoroughly. The cantaloupe and pineapple should be chilled overnight. 
  • Before food prep, wash and sanitize hands.
  • Prep each fruit in turn, returning to chiller as soon as prepared. 
    • Pick grapes off stems. Rinse.
    • Rinse blueberries
    • Peel kiwi. Cut into half lengthwise, then into another six cubes. 1 kiwi = 12 cubes
    • Cut skin off pineapple. Cut into 1/2 inch cubes.
    • Cut skin off cantaloupe. Cut into 1/2 inch cubes.
    • Cut the tops off strawberries. Leave a uniform 3/4 inch from tip to end, for each strawberry.
  • Assemble the skewers. Do this quickly, returning to chiller as soon as completed. 
  • Keep covered and chilled till service time. And serve on a platter sat on ice to keep cold. 

Alternatives for Colors
  • Purple - blackberries
  • Green - grapes
  • Yellow - mango
  • Orange - orange!
  • Red - watermelon, raspberries

What do you think? What other fruit would you use? What about fruit shapes? I love hearing from you!

xo Gracie 

p.s. It would be AWESOME if you could click on any ad here - my sponsors give me a few cents per click. Thanks for supporting my blog!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

OvaEasy Powdered Whole Eggs Review: Delicious!

I packed one 4.5 oz sachet of  OvaEasy powdered whole eggs for two breakfasts and one lunch during a three day Laurel Highlands hike back in June.

The Meal Plan
As one 4.5 oz sachet yields 12 eggs AND two scoops (scoop comes with sachet) = 1 1/2 eggs, I planned for two people:
  • Breakfast Day 2: Scrambled eggs (4 1/2 eggs)
  • Breakfast Day 3: Scrambled eggs (4 1/2 eggs)
  • Lunch Day 3: Egg and chicken burrito (3 eggs and Future Essentials freeze-dried chicken cubes)                                                              

Scrambled Egg Prep
It's 2 scoops OvaEasy to 3 scoops of water. I measured 6 scoops of OvaEasy into our much-loved Titanium Snowpeak 1.1 L ultralight pot, added 9 scoops of spring water and stirred well with a spoon (ultralight titanium of course :p). I added a generous tablespoon of organic ghee for that delicious buttery flavor, and scrambled as per the usual way, over our Primus stove. Sprinkled some sea salt and dug in! A quick hearty breakfast in under 10 minutes.

The cheapest I've found for sachets are $18 (three sachets, free ship) on Amazon. That works out to only 50 cents per egg. The cans are slightly cheaper (43 cents per egg) - if you order over $100 of product from The Ready Store, shipping is free. There are six 4.5 oz sachets in one #10 can.

These OvaEasy eggs taste so good. They taste like fresh eggs. I wouldn't be able to tell the difference. A quick and hearty breakfast in under 10 minutes.

Have you tried these? What's your favorite brand?

xo Gracie

p.s. It would be AWESOME if you could click on any ad here - my sponsors give me a few cents per click. Thanks for supporting my blog!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Instant Pot Baby Back Ribs: Easy and Yum!

Rib Lovers Unite! Here's a recipe that's super easy, takes only 30 minutes pressure cooking with my Multi-Function Instant Pot, and will hit that spot without hard-hitting your wallet. That's right, you read me right. Thirty minute pressure cooked ribs. (Read my review of the Instant Pot HERE).

I've made it twice using the Instant Pot so far and both times it produced fall-off-the-bone tender and tasty ribs that the entire family LOVED. Made from scratch with no additives, MSG, preservatives, or high fructose corn syrup, these ribs are actually, healthy. Recipe adapted for the Instant Pot from Scott Hibb's famous rib recipe , minus the onion and whiskey. I'm actually salivating as I plug away at this blog post!

Sorry blur iPhone pic taken with rib-sticky fingers
- I nearly forgot to even take this one pic!

(for 6 large half racks of baby backs, feeding 6)
Three 2 lb slabs of baby back ribs (7 lbs or about 3 kg total)
3 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon fine ground cayenne powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
1 tablespoon garlic powder (Love Frontier's organic one)
1/2 cup tomato paste
1 cup apple cider vinegar (I like Bragg's)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon liquid smoke flavoring
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/8 cup water
*The fresh ribs are about $25 from Restaurant Depot. The finished ribs cost about $150 in a restaurant. 

  1. Prep the ribs by removing the membrane that covers the inner part of the ribs. This allows the flavor and seasonings to penetrate the meat. (See a video tutorial HERE).
  2. Lay the ribs out on a large tray. You'll season one side first, then the other side. On one side, sprinkle on half the salt, cayenne powder, black pepper, garlic powder. Repeat with the rest of these seasonings on the other side.
  3. In a small bowl, mix the tomato paste, vinegar, sugar, molasses, honey and liquid smoke. Pour this sauce over the ribs. Turn over to coat the other side.
  4. Arrange the ribs in the Instant Pot, meaty part facing outward and sort of nestled circular-like (see pic). Pour the sauce from the tray into the Pot. 
  5. Seasoned ribs in the Instant Pot ready to go
  6. Place the lid on the Pot, set the pressure valve to 'seal' and select 'Stew', which will give 30 minutes of pressure cooking. It will take 15-20 minutes for the liquid inside to come to a boil and build up pressure, then it will pressure cook for 30 minutes. So total cook time including prep is about an hour.
  7. When the time is up, pull out the ribs and arrange on a tray. 
  8. Preheat the oven to grill on 'Low'.
  9. Reduce the liquid left in the pot to a basting sauce by heating it on high in a saucepan for 5-10 minutes. Stir the cornstarch with the 1/8 cup of water, then add that to the reduced sauce to thicken it. Stir vigorously while adding the cornstarch solution. At this point, taste and adjust salt and sugar as you prefer.
  10. Baste the ribs generously with the basting sauce. Place the basted ribs in the oven for 5 minutes for a beautiful char-grilled finish.
  11. Enjoy!
Do you have a favorite no-fail rib recipe to share? I welcome you to try mine and let me know how it turned out for you!

xo Gracie 

p.s. It would be AWESOME if you could click on any ad here - my sponsors give me a few cents per click. Thanks for supporting my blog!

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Ultimate Vanilla Cupcake Bar None

My quest for the best ever vanilla cupcake began two months before Kimby's bridal shower. I decided to add fondant decorated cupcakes to the dessert list, which included my signature fruit-filled sponge cake. My inspiration was Cousin Yoonie's exquisite fondant decorated cupcakes, which are *almost* too beautiful to eat (see one lovely creation HERE). Thanks for all your help and advice Yoon, this blog post is dedicated to you.

Recipe Testing
I first tested three promising recipes and then chose the best - this was Stef's Ultimate Vanilla Cupcake. My cousin's kindly-provided recipe was incredibly buttery and flavorful, but denser than the Ultimate. Julie Hanson's Very Vanilla Cupcake was also dense and not as tasty. The Ultimate was very light and airy, less buttery (as it had half oil half butter). I believe the secret of it's lightness lies in the 'reverse creaming' method. My quest for the perfect vanilla cupcake ended with the Ultimate.

Very Important 
  • The first time I made it, it had 'tunnels' going through the cupcake. This meant my gas oven got too hot, which it tends to do if I let it go for too long. For the next three batches, I was careful to keep temperature at 350 degrees F and each batch was good.
  • All the ingredients MUST be at room temperature for this to work.
  • Use a good quality vanilla bean, and pure vanilla extract. This is a vanilla cupcake after all. :) I love the premium bourbon-Madagascar vanilla bean by J.R. Mushroom & Specialities. At less than $1 per bean, these are value for money.

(makes 16 cupcakes)
1 cup sugar (225 g)
1 vanilla bean
1 3/4 cups flour (175 g)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter (57 g)
2 eggs
1/3 cup sour cream (75 g)
1/4 cup vegetable oil (60 ml)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup whole milk (160 ml)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C).
  2. In a small bowl, combine sugar and vanilla bean seeds.
  3. In the stand mixer bowl with paddle beater attached, put flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar. Mix on speed 2 for 3 minutes.
  4. Add butter. Mix for another 3 minutes.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk eggs, cream, oil and vanilla till combined.
  6. Add the egg mixture all in one go to the flour mix. Mix till well combined (1 minute). Scrape down the sides of the bowl halfway through.
  7. Add milk to the batter and mix till very smooth (3 minutes). No lumps! Batter will be thin-ish.
  8. Transfer batter to jug for easy pouring into cupcake liners. 
  9. Fill liners half full and no more. 
  10. Bake 14 minutes or until test skewer comes out clean. Test every minute after minute 14 until skewer comes out clean. 
I love these with swiss meringue buttercream (SMB), which are not as sweet and which contain protein from the egg whites. SMB is also addictive and you could be sucking silky luscious spoonfuls down before you even realise it!

Vanilla cupcakes with swiss meringue buttercream piped roses and topped with fondant butterflies

Making Ahead
The cupcakes can be made up to 3 days ahead, and kept in an airtight container so they don't dry out. They can also apparently be frozen for up to a month, but I haven't tried that.

Have you a favorite cupcake recipe to share? I am always on the lookout for favorite / family recipes and would love love love to try yours out. Please do leave a comment!

xo Gracie

p.s. It would be AWESOME if you could click on any ad here - my sponsors give me a few cents per click. Thanks for supporting my blog!

Powdered Eggs: What's Cheap and Good?

I did a thorough review and price comparison of powdered egg options on Amazon. I didn't want to buy too much, just in case they tasted horrid, so I kept my price comparison to product under $20.

Eggs-tra Cheap
At 20 cents per egg, Honeyville Powdered Eggs was cheapest. But since it comes in a 2.25 lb can (96 eggs, $19.09), I was sure there would be wastage. The thing is, once the can is opened, the eggs will start sucking up ambient moisture. They need to be eaten within two weeks or they'll go bad. Hmm... 96 eggs in two weeks? No thanks. Also, these eggs received mixed reviews.

Hoosier Farm Whole Powdered Eggs were also cheap at 24 cents per egg. However, these came in a 1 lb bag (42 eggs, $9.99). I could probably finish the package within two weeks of opening, but did I really want to eat all that powdered egg? Besides, nobody has seen fit to review the product yet.

OvaEasy powdered whole eggs, at 51 cents per egg (for the 3 pack of 4.5 oz sachets, $18.49) was more than double the cost of the Honeyville and Hoosier bulk eggs. However, the advantage was that each pack containing 12 eggs-worth, could be used pack-by-pack. I used one pack for three meals over a three day hiking trip and found this portion size to be perfect for my needs.

Barry Farm Whole Egg Powder was the most pricey at 60 cents per egg (8 oz bag = 21 eggs, $12.76). I read the reviews. Most of them were mediocre except for one that said they were cheaper than Honeyville and tasted just as good. I'm not sure where that reviewer got his figures from, but I certainly wasn't going to buy these eggs!

Gracie's Pick
I got OvaEasy. They taste so fresh, and are great scrambled, especially with organic ghee. Other brands don't seem to scramble as well according to the reviewers. And the sachet portion size is a plus. Next time, I will save by buying in bulk!

What's your pick? Would love to hear from you.

xo Gracie

p.s. It would be AWESOME if you could click on any ad here - my sponsors give me a few cents per click. Thanks for supporting my blog!

OvaEasy Egg and Freeze Dried Chicken Burritos: Backpacking Gourmet!

I made this for a quick hot lunch during a hike in the Laurel Highlands.

Two scoops (= 3 eggs) of OvaEasy powdered whole eggs
1/2 C freeze dried peas from Future Essentials
1 C natural freeze-dried diced chicken from Future Essentials
1 T grass-fed organic ghee from Purity Farms
1 1/2 C water
Salt & pepper to taste
4 large tortillas

I mixed all the ingredients together in our titanium cook pot, and stirred with a spoon (yes we like titanium) as the mix warmed and cooked over our Primus Omnifuel stove. It took about 10 minutes to cook. Then about 1/2 cup of the egg and chicken filling was spooned onto each tortilla, and rolled up.

The eggs were $1.50 (based on calculations from a previous post). Peas were $1 and chicken was about $2. Each burrito worked out to $3.

This was a delicious meal. The freeze-dried peas and chicken, and the powdered eggs, rehydrated beautifully and adding the ghee to the filling gave it a buttery flavor. The ghee also adds some good fat which would keep us full longer. I would definitely make this again.

xo Gracie 

p.s. It would be AWESOME if you could click on any ad here - my sponsors give me a few cents per click. Thanks for supporting my blog!