Cooks Exchange

Here’s some recipes for quick and easy meals to keep handy

Barbecue pulled pork sandwiches are easy to make and good to bring to just about any gathering.
Barbecue pulled pork sandwiches are easy to make and good to bring to just about any gathering. Getty Images/iStockphoto

Now that Halloween is just a memory, still to come are more fall festivals, field trips, Thanksgiving, holiday parties, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Year’s Eve. The year is simply moving too fast.

I attended my granddaughter’s fall party last week, along with three trunk-or-treats. When I opened an e-mail from her teacher, she was asking for meatballs for the Christmas class party.

As the activities ramp up, home cooks need quick, easy, no-effort meals. These appliances can make meals easily and quickly. The old-time pressure cooker needs to be watched more carefully than the new electric Instant Pots. The ever-reliable slow cooker is so handy; just dump in the ingredients, leave it and come home to a prepared dinner.

A friend gifted me with an Instant Pot earlier this year. She knew that my late husband had burned our pressure cooker, and that I hadn’t yet bought an Instant Pot. I love it. It is a pressure cooker, slow cooker and stove-top method all in one appliance.

One of today’s recipes is a copycat of Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscana, or potato, sausage and kale or spinach soup.

The Instant Pot makes this soup a one-dish meal. The ingredients like onion, garlic and sausage can be cooked in the Instant Pot on the sauté setting, according to the website, www.marginmakingmom.com/ If recipe lovers haven’t checked out this website, they need to. This recipe only requires a few ingredients and is inexpensive to make, two plusses in my book.

Zuppa Toscana can be made with either spinach or kale. I prefer spinach because I like the taste. Others like kale because it does not wilt as much in the soup.

The Instant Pot pulled pork sandwiches only take two hours to cook and serves eight. Home cooks can pair these sandwiches with slow cooker cowboy beans or serve the two separately. The beans can be a separate meal served with a side dish or a fresh green salad.

INSTANT POT ZUPPA TOSCANA

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 pound ground mild Italian sausage

4 cloves garlic, minced

3 large russet potatoes, unpeeled and sliced into ¼-inch slices

6 cups (1 1/2 quarts) chicken broth

2 cups fresh kale or spinach, chiffonade

3/4 cup heavy cream or half and half or milk if you want to decrease the calories

Using the sauté function of the Instant Pot, heat the olive oil. Add onions and cook until they begin to become translucent. Add the Italian sausage, crumbling up into smaller pieces and cooking until browned.

Add garlic and allow to cook just until fragrant, about a minute. Drain off excess grease if desired and return to pot. Add potato sliced and chicken broth. Lock the lid into place and set to “sealed.” Cook at high pressure for 5 minutes using the manual setting.

When cooking is complete, allow a natural pressure release for 10 minutes, followed by a quick release. When pressure valve has dropped, remove the lid and add kale or spinach to the pot. The heat from the soup will wilt the kale or spinach as you stir.

Pour in cream or half and half or milk, stirring to combine. Makes about 6 servings.

– From www.marginmakingmom/

INSTANT POT BARBECUE PULLED PORK SANDWICHES

3 tablespoons light brown sugar

2 teaspoons hot paprika

1 teaspoon mustard powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1 (4-pound) boneless pork shoulder, trimmed or excess fat and cut into 6 pieces

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, plus more to taste

3 tablespoons tomato paste

12 hamburger buns

1 cup barbecue sauce, for serving

4 cups coleslaw, for serving

Special equipment: An Instant Pot multi-cooker

Combine paprika, mustard powder, cumin, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl. Rub the spice mixture all over the pork.

Turn the Instant Pot to the high sauté setting. Add the oil and once hot, add the pork and cook in two batches, turning, until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Switch the Instant Pot to the warm setting, remove pork and transfer to a plate.

Whisk 3/4 cup water into the drippings in the Instant Pot. Add the vinegar, tomato paste, the remaining 2 tablespoons brown sugar and 2 cups water and whisk to combine. Add the pork back. Follow the manufacturer’s guide for locking the lid and preparing to cook. Set to pressure cook on high for 1 hour.

After the pressure cook cycle is complete, follow the manufacturer’s guide for quick release and wait until the quick release cycle is complete. Careful of any remaining steam, unlock and remove the lid and transfer the pork to a large bowl. Switch the Instant Pot to the normal sauté setting and simmer the juices until reduced by half, about 15 minutes. While the juices are reducing use a ladle to remove any fat that rises to the top. Season to taste with salt.

Meanwhile, use 2 forks to shred the pork into small chunks.

Add 3 cups of the reduced cooking liquid to the chunked pork and season with salt and vinegar to taste. Serve in hamburger buns with barbecue and coleslaw.

– From Food Network Kitchen

SLOW COOKER COWBOY BARBECUE BEANS

1 pound ground beef, browned

8 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled

15-ounce can lima beans, undrained

15-ounce can kidney beans, undrained

15-ounce can pork and beans, undrained

1/2 cup barbecue sauce

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar, packed

1 teaspoon liquid smoke flavoring

Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on low for 3-4 hours.

- From www.recipesthatcrock.com/

Andrea Yeager can be reached at ayeager51@cableone.net and Cooks Exchange, 205 DeBuys Road, Gulfport, MS 39507
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