Black Beans and Rice for the Instant Pot 7-in-1 Pressure Cooker

I once went on the South Beach Diet. That’s the one that makes you cut out carbs and sugar for the first two weeks before you’re allowed to slowly add carbs back into your diet. At the time, I thought, “How hard can it be to go super low-carb for a couple of weeks?” Ha! I can be so delusional ambitious about this stuff sometimes.

It turns out telling an Asian person to avoid rice for two whole weeks is like expecting a crack addict to walk into a crack house and not partake in the house specialty. Not a good idea. I was super cranky after two days of my self-imposed riceless existence and fell off the diet within the week.

Since our marriage, my husband, the kids and I have not really consumed a lot of rice because of our kitchen limitations. One of my invisible internet friends mentioned cooking rice in her oven and on several occasions, I tried to bake rice and beans, but my family’s reactions were somewhat lukewarm. Everyone liked the flavors in the rice but the varying textures really left a lot to be desired. The different rice to water ratios I used didn’t seem to matter, I always ended up with over- or -undercooked rice. Blech. When your beloved spouse’s face falls at the mention of baked rice and beans, that’s the hint to reevaluate your rice baking skills.

DH and I live in a tiny apartment with a very very tiny under-equipped kitchen. Like, imagine the smallest kitchen possible and halve that. Everything we own has to do multiple duty if possible so as to save space. Imagine my delighted surprise when I heard about the Instant Pot 7-in-1 Pressure Cooker. It sautés, slow cooks, steams, cooks rice, keeps food warm, makes yogurt as well as porridge, and of course, it pressure cooks. So on Prime Day,  I bought one for $99.

Except I’d never used a pressure cooker before. I nervously envisioned the aftermath of an epic pressure cooker explosion where oxtail stew fired in all directions. What if a rogue oxtail took out someone’s eye? I wondered anxiously.

So I thought I’d start with my beloved rice and beans. I sautéed some of the sofrito my adorable Puerto Rican grandmother-in-law gave me and tossed in a can of black beans and some leftover diced tomato. After twenty minutes in the pressure cooker (5 minutes to get up to pressure, five minutes of actual cooking, and another ten minutes of depressurizing), my beans were cooked, tender, and full of sass. I spooned the beans into a large bowl, then heated up some more sofrito before tossing in long-grain white rice, chicken broth, and water, and set the pressure cooker to cook for 9 minutes on low pressure.

Yeahhh, no good. The rice was way overcooked and DH felt it lacked adequate flavor. And I wasted homemade chicken broth!

I lamented to a good friend, a consummate pressure cooker user, about the waste of perfectly good rice and she advised me to decrease the water and cook for only three minutes on high next time.

She was right. My very next batch of rice came out evenly cooked, the grains were separated, not too clumpy, and neither too firm nor too soft. And did I mention the flavor? Swoon.

I was afraid this perfection was a fluke so I made it again. And again, each time I got perfectly cooked rice. My poor husband has now grown weary of rice after all these experiments so it looks like I’ll be cooking it for myself when he’s not home. 😀

Rice and Beans for the Instant Pot 7-in-1 Pressure Cooker

Goya makes a decent sofrito if you don’t feel like making your own, though it’s not the same as my abuelita-in-law’s; hers doesn’t involve tomatoes. If you want to make your own sofrito, check out Serious Eats’ recipe, and here’s one for recaito, which is a little closer to what Abuelita gave me. 

For the beans:
1 tsp olive or vegetable oil
2-3 TBS sofrito
1 15.5-oz can of frijoles (black beans), undrained
1/2 cup petite diced tomatoes, drained

For the rice:
2 tsp olive or vegetable oil
2-3 TBS sofrito
2 cups long grain rice (we’re very fond of basmati in the Guapo household), rinsed in a sieve
2 1/4 cups water, broth or a combo of both
1 cube chicken bouillon

On the Saute setting of the electric pressure cooker, heat the oil on Normal (medium-high) until it shimmers and add the sofrito. Stir until very fragrant, about two minutes. Add the beans and diced tomato, stir, and put the lid on, ensuring the vent is closed. Press Cancel, then Manual (this is the pressure cooker setting), set the cook time to five minutes and let’er rip on More (high pressure). When the pot beeps to let you know it’s finished cooking, wait ten minutes and then carefully open the vent to let the pressure drop all the way before lifting the lid.

Empty the beans into a large bowl and cover to keep warm. Wash the insert and on the Saute setting of the electric pressure cooker, heat the remaining oil on Normal (medium-high) until it shimmers before adding the sofrito. Stir and cook until fragrant, about two minutes. Add the rice and stir to make sure it’s coated with oil and sofrito. Add the remaining ingredients and replace the lid with the vent closed. Press Cancel, then Manual, and set the cook time to 3 minutes on More (high pressure). When the timer goes off, wait ten minutes and then carefully open the vent to let the pressure drop all the way before lifting the lid. Gently fluff the rice with a fork before serving.

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Today 

Today I married my best friend and my lover. 

  

And then we ate dim sum with our family and closest friends to celebrate our nuptials. 

 

Holy shit, I have a husband and two little boys to stand guard over. #contentment

Love and Roast Chicken

It’s funny how much better food tastes when you’re in love. Yeah, you read that right:  I’m in love.  He’s kind, generous, loving, handsome, and best of all, he loves me too.  *cue singing woodland animals and rainbow-farting unicorns*  I adore spending time with this man. He inspired me to go running while we were still in the flirting stage. And I mean running in the park, not running after the ice cream truck. I even stopped to take a picture at the park to prove to Facebook that I actually ran:



I wanted to write about the restaurant where we had our first date but for once, I neglected to take any food pictures; I was too busy looking into his big brown eyes and trying not to appear awkward or crazy. So instead, I give you a quick post about the first meal I cooked for he who shall henceforth be known as Guapo. 

Roast chicken: 



I packed the space under the breast skin with butter, garlic, chopped parsley and thyme. The cavity and exterior got the same mixture with some added minced leek and olive oil.

Roasted red potatoes:

I went with an easy olive oil, butter, sea salt and ground pepper for the potatoes. 

Green beans with pancetta:I asked Guapo to blanch and drain the string beans while I chopped up the pancetta. Fried the pancetta up and tossed the beans in the rendered fat along with a little ground black pepper and congratulated myself on being fake-fancy.Too bad I didn’t know he is not a string bean fan! 

And two different créme brûlées, vanilla-orange (not pictured) and Earl Grey:

Surprisingly, the Earl Grey créme brûlée, which we’d both been looking forward to tasting because of our mutual love of Star Trek: TNG, was an experimental dud. One-dimensional, slightly bitter and flavorless, I kept waiting for the bergamot flavor to show itself but it never did. In other words, blech. Captain Picard would never have approved. 

The vanilla-orange one, on the other hand, was bright with citrus flavor and warm with vanilla. 

There was wine, lots of talking and flirting. And falling in love. I adore this man. 

Vegan Quinoa Chili

Recently, I joined a bunch of friends in a health and fitness challenge. While I didn’t lose any weight *shakes fist at cosmos*, I did increase my cardio exercise by about 50% and now I look for ways to walk as much as I can as fast as I can. I tried out hot yoga the week before I left for my vacation on the Jersey shore.

Much to my dismay, hot yoga does not mean a roomful of exceedingly attractive individuals standing around in various Gumby-like poses; it means the room temperature is the rough equivalent of sitting inside the sun. 😮

While I’m never going to become a vegetarian or a hot yoga fan, I vowed to cut out red meat for the duration of the health challenge and to consume more well-balanced vegetarian meals, and maybe even work in some vegan dishes.

To that end, I decided to make a vegetarian chili stuffed full of veggies and boosted the fiber and protein with quinoa. It also added some subtle texture without trying to replace ground meat. The only thing I would do differently next time is to reduce the carrots; the chili was a little sweeter than I like. Feel free to add other veggies of your choice!

Vegan Quinoa Chili
8 to 10 servings

1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 cups water
1 tbs olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 bell peppers (any color you like, I chose green because it’s cheaper), diced
2 medium carrots, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, ribs and seeds removed
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 TBS ground cumin
2 TBS ground chili powder or to your taste
1 zucchini, diced
1 TBS tomato paste
2 15-oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 26-oz can diced tomatoes, drained
1 15-oz can pureed tomatoes
1 10-oz can corn niblets
1 TBS ground black pepper
1 TBS Frank’s Hot Sauce (optional)
Salt to taste

Combine quinoa and water in a saucepan, bring to boil and simmer, covered, over low heat until water is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Set aside.

In an 8-qt stockpot or other large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the onion, peppers, carrots, celery, and jalapeno, and cook until soft, about ten minutes. Stir in ground spices, garlic, and zucchini; cook for another five or so minutes or until fragrant.

Add remaining ingredients as well as the quinoa and stir to combine. Simmer on low for 40 minutes. Serve with chopped avocado, cilantro, green onion, lime wedges, and additional hot sauce. Add shredded Cheddar and sour cream or Greek yogurt for a non-vegan meal.

 

Vegan Quinoa Chili topped with cheese. Not so vegan!

Vegan Quinoa Chili topped with not-vegan cheese