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Cooking Ham Hocks in the Instant Pot

Cooking Ham Hocks in the Instant Pot

Cooking ham hocks in the Instant Pot is amazingly simple. I discovered that fact after deciding to use *ham hocks from the freezer in Instant Pot ham and potato soup. That soup was also amazing simple, delicious and believe it or not, dairy free. That recipe will go live next Wednesday in a separate post. The two posts will be linked shortly thereafter.

Ham Hocks in the Instant Pot

2 ham hocks (Ask the butcher to cut each hock into 2-3 pieces to make it easier to pick off the meat.)
6 cups water

Put the ham hocks and the water into the Instant Pot. Secure the lid and be sure the venting button is set to seal. Using the pressure cooking function, set the timer for 40 minutes. Push start.

When the pot beeps to signal the end of the forty minutes, let the pot natural release the pressure for 20 minutes. Then move the venting button to vent so the remaining pressure releases.

When all the pressure has been released, remove the lid. Using a slotted spoon remove the hocks. Put them in a pan to cool. When sufficiently cooled pick off the meat and discard the bones.

Use the meat and the liquid in the pot as ingredients for ham and potato soup, ham and bean soup, or other ham-based soups.

*Those of you who are eagerly awaiting the release of See Jane Run! on June 7, 2022 should know that cooking ham hocks in the Instant Pot is a totally Jane kind of thing to do. Except that Instant Pots weren’t around in 1977 when the story takes place. But if they had been, she’da been using one.

Caramel Apple Dip: No One Will Know It’s Dairy-Free

Caramel Apple Dip: No One Will Know It’s Dairy-Free

Caramel apple dip used to be a favorite snack at our house. But once the kids were grown and my dairy allergy was diagnosed, I quit making it.

I missed it. Oh my how I missed it.

I was resigned to life without this treat until my daughter-in-law made a chance comment when we were together for Christmas. My daughter and I mentioned that Baker’s Pantry–a Mennonite grocery store we frequent because they sell 40-50 pound bags of all manner of bread baking staples–carries Watkins extracts.

That’s when my daughter-in-law said, “We used to mix their caramel extract with a little brown sugar and cream cheese to make apple dip.”

That’s when the lightbulb lit up in my brain. From the expression on my daughter’s face, I think she had a lightbulb moment too. We immediately added Watkins caramel extract to our Baker’s Pantry grocery list for the shopping trip we had scheduled for New Year’s Eve morning.

On the way home from Baker’s Pantry, we stopped at Hy-Vee, an Iowa-based grocery chain. They carry just about everything, including Daiya cream cheese substitute made from coconut. Most cream cheese substitutes are soy-based, and our granddaughter can’t have soy. (As I’ve said before, with her soy issues and dairy issues for 5 of the 6 people in this house, we are that family.)

A couple nights ago, I made the caramel apple dip and served it for dessert. It was a big hit. With everybody. Absolutely delicious. There are not enough superlatives to do the dip justice. And it was so easy. Incredibly easy.

You’ll find the recipe below. Use regular cream cheese if dairy isn’t an issue for you. Use one of the soy-based substitutes if that works at your house. However, you have to use Watkins caramel extract or the flavor superlatives won’t apply.

Dairy-Free Caramel Apple Dip

8 ounces Daiya cream cheese substitute at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon Watkins caramel extract
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Put the cream cheese substitute into a bowl and mash it with a fork to loosen. Add caramel extract and brown sugar. Continue mashing with a fork and mixing until smooth. Refrigerate until serving it with apple slices.

Mongolian Beef with a Multigenerational Twist

Mongolian Beef with a Multigenerational Twist

Mongolian beef is one of my husband’s favorite dishes. When I brought home our local grocery store’s seasonal magazine and saw a recipe for Mongolian beef made with hamburger. I decided to adapt it to meet our multigenerational family’s purposes. That meant:

  • Supplementing the traditional green onions with vegetables (carrots) the grandkids will put in their mouths.
  • Using beef that hasn’t been ground.
  • Doubling the recipe so 4 adults and 2 children could get enough to eat.

Here’s our adjusted recipe.

Mongolian Beef

2 pounds lean beef (roast or steak) cut into thin strips
3 T sesame oil, divided
6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 T fresh garlic, grated
4 T mirin (rice wine)
4 T rice vinegar
1 T brown sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup water
2 tsp. sesame seeds
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
4 bunches green onions cut into 2 inch lengths
2 large carrots peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces (skip this ingredient if you want a more traditional dish)
2 T toasted sesame seeds (for garnish)
8 cups cooked rice

Put 2 tablespoons of sesame oil into a large pan set at medium high heat. Add beef strips and cook through and juices have been cooked off. Remove from pan. Add remaining tablespoon of oil. Add carrots and stir fry until they just begin to cook. Add garlic and ginger. Saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the mirin, rice vinegar, brown sugar, soy sauce, and water. Cook until liquid begins to thicken. Add green onions and stir fry for another minute or 2. Serve over rice and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

Editorial Note: The 6-year-old wouldn’t eat the carrots because he said they tasted weird. He refused to eat the meat at first because he thought it looked like poop. (6-year-olds are obsessed with poop.) Once convinced it wasn’t poop, he tasted and downed it in record time.) The 3-year-old ate the carrots and rice, but not the meat. They ate the green peas I prepared as a back up vegetable. Why they didn’t refuse those because “pea” and “pee” sound the same, I’ll never know.

 

Mom’s Apple Dumplings Embraced by a New Generation

Mom’s Apple Dumplings Embraced by a New Generation

My mother made the most delicious dumplings. When a friend called to offer us free apples, I pulled out Mom's recipe. They were as delicious as I remembered.

Mom’s apple dumplings (as in author Jolene Philo’s mom and not fictional protagonist Jane Newell’s mom) were mouthwateringly good. My mom learned how to make them from her mother, who made them in a huge, metal dishpan to feed her large family. Neither Mom or her mom used a recipe. At some point in my adulthood I badgered Mom into writing out a recipe so I could make them for our kids. They loved them.

So much so that last Saturday my adult daughter Anne said she was craving apple dumplings. She asked where to find the recipe. I pointed her to the electronic version from a 2015 post at this website. She made them Saturday evening, and she served them for dessert after Sunday dinner. They were eagerly devoured by all. My heart was as full as as my stomach as I watched my grandchildren (ages 5 and 3) become fans of Mom’s apple dumplings. Once Mom can come visit again, Anne and I will make a batch for her to enjoy with us. I think she’ll like seeing an old tradition being embraced by a new generation.

Mom’s Apple Dumplings

Step 1: Make a batch of Grandma Conrad’s Never Fail Pie Crust. Let it sit for at least 10 minutes.

Step 2: In a saucepan, combine 2 cups water, 1/2 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons butter (or Earth Balance Vegan Stick for a non-dairy version), and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Bring to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and set aside.

Step 3: Peel, core, and slice 6–8 cups of apples. Put them in a large mixing bowl. Add 1/4 cup of sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon. Mix together until apples are coated with sugar and cinnamon.

Step 4: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Take 1/4 of the pie dough and roll it into a rectangle about  15 inches long and 8 inches wide.

My mother made the most delicious dumplings. When a friend called to offer us free apples, I pulled out Mom's recipe. They were as delicious as I remembered.   With a paring knife, cut the dough into 6 pieces.

My mother made the most delicious dumplings. When a friend called to offer us free apples, I pulled out Mom's recipe. They were as delicious as I remembered.Fill each section of dough with as much of the apple mixture as it can hold.

My mother made the most delicious dumplings. When a friend called to offer us free apples, I pulled out Mom's recipe. They were as delicious as I remembered.Fold the dough up and around the apples.

My mother made the most delicious dumplings. When a friend called to offer us free apples, I pulled out Mom's recipe. They were as delicious as I remembered.Place 12 dumplings in a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Pour the syrup over the dumplings.

My mother made the most delicious dumplings. When a friend called to offer us free apples, I pulled out Mom's recipe. They were as delicious as I remembered.Bake the dumplings at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees. Continue baking for 30–35 minutes until the apples are soft when a fork is inserted into one of the dumplings.

My mother made the most delicious dumplings. When a friend called to offer us free apples, I pulled out Mom's recipe. They were as delicious as I remembered.

Cool and serve with ice cream, milk, or half-and-half or dairy-free alternatives.

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Bone Broth: When Old-Fashioned Goes Vogue

Bone Broth: When Old-Fashioned Goes Vogue

Bone broth is a new fancy, schmancy name for what I’ve been making for years. I first made it in the late 1970s after we moved to Harding County. Only we didn’t use the now trendy term “bone broth.” If we boiled a chicken or turkey carcass in a pot of water for a couple hours, we called it chicken broth. Or turkey broth. If we did the same with beef bones or ham bones, we called it beef broth. Or ham broth.

This morning, I made chicken broth. Not bone broth. The sight and smell of the pot bubbling on the stove reminded me of the Harding Country values that blessed my kitchen during our 7 years living there and for the 36 years since we left.

  • Use what you have because “running” to the grocery store is a pain when the grocery store 23 miles away.
  • Refuse to throw away something that looks like garbage (like bones) until after every bit of goodness has been eked out of it.
  • Homemade is best.
  • A deep freeze is your friend.
  • So make lots of whatever you’re making and freeze it.
  • In winter the great outdoors makes a good freezer, too. (Which explains while several jars of broth are cooling on the front porch before they go in the deep freeze.)

While the broth cools, I’m brainstorming ideas about how to incorporate those cooking lessons into future books in the West River Mystery series. More than the recipe included at the end of each one. Something integral to the cozy mystery being solved. Because in kitchen values are worth passing along. Because there will be no pressure to use the phrase “bone broth” since no one in protagonist Jane’s world would use such a pretentious term. And because See Jane Cook! is a really good title.

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Christmas Baking and Sweetened Condensed Milk

Christmas Baking and Sweetened Condensed Milk

Christmas baking and sweetened condensed milk are a dynamic duo for six weeks during the holidays. However, this combination can lead to problems for those who live in rural areas.

I became acquainted with some of those problems during the first fall we lived 23 miles from the closest grocery store and 70 miles from a full service supermarket. Some of those problems were, and perhaps still are:

  1. Thinking far enough ahead to add sweetened condensed milk to the shopping list you’re making for the October trip to the big city* because you’re pretty darn proud of yourself for remembering to write down Halloween candy.
  2. Realizing, once you get back home, that you should have tripled the number of cans needed for Christmas baking so there are enough for the recipes you will inevitably forget to consult.
  3. Having the October shopping trip postponed on account of winter weather making an early appearance. Which means that in the future Halloween candy and sweetened condensed milk should be on July shopping lists, right under watermelon and sweet corn.

I never had enough sweetened condensed milk for Christmas baking. So finding Sylvia Padden’s recipe for a substitute version in the Camp Crook Centennial Cook Book felt like the best Christmas present ever. For some reason, stocking the pantry with powdered milk was never a problem. And even though powdered milk isn’t known for deliciousness, Christmas baking and sweetened condensed milk aren’t affected by its taste.

Condensed Milk Substitute

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup hot water
1 cup + 2 tablespoons powdered milk

Dissolve sugar in hot water. Thoroughly mix in in powdered milk. Let cool 5-10 minutes before using.

*For citizens of towns with less than 100 residents, communities with populations greater than 1000 qualify as “big cities.”

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