Monday, April 24, 2017

Masonable Mondays #7 - Cheesecake

Welcome to Masonable Mondays #7! I know it has been a while. I am sorry about that. But I think this #Masonable will make it up to you. Have you seen those new cheesecake snacks? They sell them as a divided cup with cheesecake filling on one side and chocolate, caramel or cherry topping on the other. What a perfect idea for a masonable! Now I decided to use cottage cheese to make my cheesecake snacks. I had recently seen a Dr. Oz show that boasted the nutritional values of cottage cheese. It is a great source of both protein and calcium. When you blend it up smooth it looks more like yogurt and can be used in both sweet and savory recipes. It works beautifully in these cheesecake masonables. Perfect for a snack, breakfast or dessert! I sweetened it with maple syrup, vanilla and lemon zest. It has that classic cheesecake flavor. But just think about it, the possibilities are endless. You can use light cottage cheese, neufchatel or cream cheese if you like. Any cheesecake flavor you can imagine can be adapted to a masonable. Whether you enjoy fruit toppings or indulgent rich mix-ins. You are just limited by your imagination. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Top with any combination of fresh or frozen fruit. 
I chose thawed frozen dark cherries today. But try blueberries, peaches or strawberries. Heck top with jam or pie filling if you like.

Oreo! Try stirring in or topping with crushed oreos 
or spoon cheesecake filling on thin oreos.

What about Amaretto? Substitute Almond liquor or extract for vanilla or maple syrup. Top with toasted almonds and serve with Italian Amaretti cookies.

Or Peanut Butter Cup!? Stir in peanut butter and drizzle with melted chocolate. Or keep it simple and just chop up some Reese's peanut butter cups.

So many ideas come to mind. I hope you will try this recipe or create your own. Be sure to let me know what you put in your Cheesecake Masonable.

Cheesecake Masonable
Makes 4 - 1/2 cup servings


4 wide mouth half pint Mason jar
4 empty fruit cup


2 cups cottage cheese (4% milkfat, small curd)
3 Tbsp. real maple syrup
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla
zest of small lemon
20 frozen dark cherries, thawed
24 Honey Nut Thins, Honey Cinnamon flavored


Place cottage cheese, maple syrup, vanilla and lemon zest in a blender container. Blend until smooth. Divide into 4 wide mouth half pint mason jars. Top with five cherries or toppings of you choice. Place lid on top of the jar. Stack six nut thins on lid. Place fruit cup inverted on top of nut thins and lid. Add mason jar ring to secure everything in place. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Note: You can reduce the serving size and calories by making 6 - 1/3 cup servings. That is almost one a day for an entire week. Yum!

By the way, in case you're wondering. The Honey Cinnamon Nut Thins are AMAZING! They taste buttery and have that cinnamon roll or pancake 
flavor thing going for them. 
But you can use graham crackers or any dippers you prefer.

Picture of a not so thawed cherry.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Instant Pot Piri Piri Chicken and Rice

I am so excited! I made Piri Piri Chicken in the Instant Pot!!!! The rice too! All at once, under pressure for just 4 minutes. If you are new to my blog I am a little Piri Piri obsessed. This is maybe the eleventh post I have written? Piri Piri is Portuguese in origin and popular in South Africa. It is used as a sauce, marinade or seasoning. Recipes vary but the common ingredients are bird's eye chilies, lemon, oil, red bell peppers and garlic. It is so delicious! You have to try something made with Piri Piri. 

Well let's back up a bit. After my post for Instant Pot Pork Chops and Celery Rice someone asked, "Can you use chicken?" I had to respond I don't know? So immediately I tried the technique with chicken cutlets and mushrooms. The chicken was perfectly tender but maybe a little drier than I liked. It was not moist but not dry either. So I thought a marinade would fix that. That is where Piri Piri came to mind. I really like the flavor of Piri Piri and most restaurants that serve it always offer rice as a side. It would be perfect for this technique. It worked so great! The rice was fluffy and the chicken flavorful and moist. I made my own Piri Piri sauce but you can buy bottled sauce at some grocery stores. I have seen the Nando's brand at my store. I like making my own because I can control the heat. You can use whatever hot peppers you like. Can't find bird's eye chilies? Use jalapenos or serranos. I find that as a raw sauce it is spicy but when cooked it is not that hot. The sweetness of the peppers come out when cooked. In fact, I think kids would probably enjoy the chicken and the adults can add the raw sauce for heat. It was so good! I only did two cutlets this time but I have cooked up to six without a problem. I wish I had some thin cut boneless pork chops because I am dying to try that too. I think it would be so tasty! I hope you will give Piri Piri and this #InstantPot recipe a try. Thanks for visiting today. I really appreciate it.

Instant Pot Piri Piri Chicken and Rice
Serves 4


4 chicken cutlets or 2 chicken breast, butterflied
Piri Piri Sauce <<Click here for recipe
Olive oil cooking spray
1-3/4 cups water
1 cup uncooked long grain white rice
1-1/2 tsp. chicken bouillon
1/2 tsp. Piri Piri Seasoning <<Click here for recipe
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup red bell pepper, finely chopped
Kosher salt, to taste


Marinate chicken in Piri Piri Sauce for 30 minutes. Keep refrigerated until ready to cook.

Place Instant Pot on Saute. When hot spray or drizzle with olive oil, brown chicken on one side only. Remove chicken and turn off heat. Add water, stir well scrapping up any brown bits off the bottom of the pot. Add rice, seasonings and garlic stir to combine. Arrange peas, onion and bell pepper on top of rice, then chicken. Cook at high pressure for 4 minutes. Turn off and let rest 5 minutes before performing a quick release. Remove Chicken and fluff rice with a fork. Taste for seasoning, adjust if necessary and serve. If you enjoy spicy foods serve with a little extra Piri Piri Sauce.

Don't have an Instant Pot or a pressure cooker? 
Try these recipes for the grill and microwave:

Want a side or topping to accompany this dish. 
Check out these older posts:

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Instant Pot Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

When I first started researching recipes for the instant pot Mac and Cheese recipes were popping up everywhere. People boasting it was so easy even their children can prepare it. I looked at them all but which one to choose? I already have an easy stove top recipe that I love. Well last night I tried adapting it to the instant pot. It worked perfectly! Everyone is right it is so easy and fast. The best part is you don't have to drain the pasta or use multiple pots. My version is a little different from the recipes I have seen. It uses store bought Alfredo to achieve a creamy cheesy sauce. You can use any brand, light styles, four cheese flavors or even the Alfredo sauce from the refrigerator section. Size of the sauce doesn't seem to matter much either; 10, 15 or 16 ounces work with similar results. So give it a try and make it you own. Use any blend of cheese you like or any shape of pasta you have on hand. Just cook for half of the recommended time on the package. Be careful when using quick release. I didn't have any sputtering with this amount of pasta but if you double the recipe you might? So use caution maybe let release naturally for a minute or two. I left the pot on warm while stirring in the cheese, but I turned it off once everything was smooth and cheesy. It kept warm covered on OFF until the chicken I baked rested for 10 minutes. Such an easy, delicious main dish or side from the instant pot. I see making this more often than I should. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Instant Pot Creamy Macaroni and Cheese
Makes 2 to 3 main-dish or 4 to 6 side-dish servings


2 cups water
2 cups (8 oz) elbow macaroni, uncooked
1 (16 oz) jar Alfredo sauce
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. ground red pepper (optional, might be too spicy for children)
2 cups (8 oz) sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded


Add 2 cups water to instant pot, stir in macaroni. Secure with lid and set to sealing. Cook at high pressure for 4 minutes or half of the time recommended on the package. Perform a quick release. Use caution, pasta can sometimes foam up a bit and spray out of the vent. Stir macaroni breaking up any clumps. Stir in Alfredo sauce, milk, black pepper, salt, red pepper (if using) and cheese. Stir until cheese is melted and serve.

Tip: Add milk to empty Alfredo sauce jar, replace lid and shake. Pour every drop of milk and sauce mixture into pot.

Variations: Use any cheese or blend of cheeses you like. This recipe is very customizable. Works with many shapes of pasta too. Use shells or penne, just cook for half of the time recommended on the package.

Want a lighter version? Use skim milk, light Alfredo sauce and 2% cheese. It is still delicious.

Don't have a instant pot or pressure cooker? Check out this stove top version here: Creamy Mac and Cheese

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Instant Pot Creole Pasta

Back in the 90's when I worked in downtown Shreveport, we would often go to Pete Harris Cafe for their weekly lunch specials. Their specials were some of the best soul food around. Specials like chicken fried steak, smothered pork chops, fried fish and potato salad every Friday. All served with sides like greens, black eye peas, corn bread and peach cobbler for dessert. One of their more unique specials was creole spaghetti. It was a plate full of spaghetti with a rusty red sauce, smoked sausage, peppers and onions. It was so different, I had never seen anything quite like it. The cafe is long gone and I have tried replicating the recipe many times. I have made it stove-top with different shaped pastas, in one pot or multiple pots. I have used different brands of pasta sauce and sausage, it always turns out delicious. I have tried low sodium versions with canned Italian tomatoes and even substituting frozen onion and pepper blend, still so very good. Recently I tried adapting the recipe to the Instant Pot. I used the one pot pasta technique and it worked perfectly. Such a savory, smoky and delicious pasta dish with tons of creole flair! I like using the Instant Pot. It was a set it and forget method, no stirring. A few pieces of pasta that came in contact with the bottom of the pot got a little brown so I suggest patting the pasta into the liquid or stirring it into the top only just to be safe. This is a fast weeknight meal I will keep making in the Instant Pot. I hope you will too.

Instant Pot Creole Pasta
Serves 4 to 6


Olive oil
1 lb smoked sausage, sliced (I used Richard's Turkey Sausage)
2 medium onions, sliced
2 bell peppers, sliced
1 tsp. Cajun Seasoning, or to taste (I used Extra Spicy Mrs. Dash)
1 jar (28 oz.) Pasta Sauce, traditional flavor (I used low sodium Organic)
1 box (16 oz.) of spaghetti or pasta (I used penne)*


Place instant pot on saute. When hot drizzle with a little olive oil and add sausage. Brown sausage on each side. Add onions and peppers, sprinkle with Cajun seasoning. Stir to separate onions slices and combine ingredients. Turn off instant pot and add pasta sauce, one jar full of water and pasta. Stir to combine, scrapping the bottom of the pot. Pat down ingredients so that pasta is submerged in liquid. Cover pot and set to sealing, cook at high pressure for half of the time recommended on the pasta packaging (6 minutes for penne). When done turn off pot and let rest 1 minute before performing a quick release. Stir and serve.

*Note: If you prefer saucy pasta use less pasta, about 12 oz.

Stove Top Directions:
Bring a large pot of water to boil for the spaghetti or pasta of your choice. In another large pot, saute onions, peppers and turkey sausage. Sprinkle with Cajun seasoning. Add pasta sauce, bring to a boil and lower heat to just simmering. Cover pot and stir occasionally. Simmer for 15 minutes to let flavors blend and until pasta is done. Drop spaghetti and cook according to package. Drain pasta and toss with some of the sauce. Top with remaining sauce to serve.

One Pot Stove Top Directions:
In a large pot, saute onions, peppers and turkey sausage. Sprinkle with Cajun seasoning. Add pasta, pasta sauce and one jar full of water. Bring to a boil and lower heat to just simmering. Cover pot and stir occasionally. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until pasta is cooked to your taste and flavors have blended.

Low Sodium Version:
Substitute low sodium pasta sauce or 2 - 15 oz. cans of no salt added Italian tomatoes pulsed in a blender. Use Extra Spicy Mrs. Dash instead of Cajun Seasoning.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Instant Pot Pork Chops and Celery Rice

I still have a lot to learn about cooking with a pressure cooker. First lesson write down what works immediately and repeat. Keep notes on what works and what does not. Recently my dear sister and I tried a childhood favorite recipe in the Instant Pot. Pork Chops and Rice is a baked one pan dish that my family has been making for years. It was my dad's favorite and he could even make it on his own. I just knew it would be great in the instant pot. And it was! We used very thin pork chops and they were fork tender in the time it took to cook the rice. I used beef bone broth I made in the Instant Pot and it was so delicious. So when I went to make it again to photograph for the blog I bought thicker boneless pork chops. I thought I would get similar results. Right? No! Not right! Just that little 1/4" in thickness made a big difference. They were tough. So I held on to this post and the photos to try one more time to make sure the thin chops would work a second time. I am glad to report the thin chops were perfect yet again. I think I might even like the Instant Pot version better. I like that the pork is moist and very tender. I will definitely keep making it in the Instant Pot in the future. I hope you will too, just make sure to buy thin cut chops. The 1/2" chops in the photos were too thick and tough. The thinner the better for this method.

Instant Pot Pork Chops and Celery Rice
Serves 4


Olive oil
4 or 5 boneless pork chops (thin cut)
1 cup long grain white rice, dry uncooked
4 to 6 stalks celery, sliced
1-3/4 cups beef or chicken bone broth (or stock in a box)
Kosher salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes, to taste


Place Instant Pot on Saute. Season both sided of pork chops with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Add a little olive oil to pot, brown pork chops on one side only. Remove pork chops and turn off heat. Add rice and broth, stir well scrapping up any brown bits off the bottom of the pot. Arrange celery on top of rice, then pork chops. Cook at high pressure for 4 minutes. Turn off and let rest 5 minutes before performing a quick release.

Note: Don't have a pressure cooker? Try the baked version. Get the recipe [Here].

Too thick!

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