Instant Pot Southern Style Green Beans

I grew up eating green beans cooked with loads of bacon, onions and lard. It was an hours long process, but using an Instant Pot makes it a quick and tasty method.

I know: why use a pressure cooker to cook canned green beans? Well it helps infuse the flavors into the beans, like a long cooking time does.

This recipe is a larger one, you can half  or double it, depending on your needs, nothing changes with the size change-  just 1/2 or double the ingredients.

Instant Pot Southern Style Green Beans

  • 4 cans of green beans*
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or butter
  • 4 sliced bacon, sliced into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced fine
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • salt and pepper to taste

Pour the oil in the Instant pot and press the “saute” button. Saute the bacon until it starts to render the fat (3-4 minutes) stirring often.

Add the onion and garlic in and saute for 3 minutes until they are fragrant (the IP sautes very hot so this doesn’t take long).

Drain 3 cans of green beans and pour all 4 cans, the liquid from 1 can and the chicken broth into the Instant Pot with the bacon, onions and garlic.

Place the lid on in the “sealing” position and change the IP to “manual” and set it for high pressure for 5 minutes.

Once it beeps that it has finished, let it release naturally for 10 minutes, then carefully open the steam vent and allow any more steam to escape before carefully opening the lid.

Stir well and serve.

*If you use frozen green beans, use 2 bags or 2 pounds for this recipe and increase the cooking time by 2 minutes and increase the broth to 1 cup.

*If you use fresh beans, clean them well and cook exactly the same way as the original recipe, increasing the broth to 1 cup.

Spaghetti Squash with Eggs and Gouda

If you like potatoes with eggs, try this one out:

1 cup cooked spaghetti squash
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 large eggs
1 ounce gouda or your favorite cheese, shredded or very thinly sliced

salt and pepper to taste as well as optional sriracha

Heat olive oil in a 6″ skillet over medium heat (if you use a bigger skillet, try to form it in about a 6″ circle, it’s for thickness not aesthetics lol).

If you spaghetti squash is wet, squeeze it as dry as you can, then make a pancake of it in the oil. Cook over low heat for 5-6 minutes or until it browns lightly on the bottom.

Stir, flip or whatever to get the top side on the bottom, then form back into the pancake shape and cook another 5-6 minutes.

Beat the eggs with salt and pepper and pour over the squash, nudging it around so the egg gets mixed in. Cover and continue to cook for 2 minutes until the egg sets, then sprinkle the cheese over the top and fold (or not- up to you) and plate.

Serve with sriracha if desired.

This is a hearty breakfast and a nice brunch or lunch option. Serve with some sliced tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and some olives on the side for a Mediterranean lunch 🙂

Grocery Pick Up Comparisons

I’ve spent the last few months using 3 local grocery pick up (curbside, clicklist, etc) services to compare them on cost, savings, accuracy and simplicity of use.

I’ll be comparing HEB (a Texas chain); Kroger and Wal-Mart.

HEB:

Cost for the service is $4.95 but it’s free right now on Wed, Thurs and Fri but that’s ending on Dec 14th; Deli meats and cheeses, as well as some spices, can be weighed in small increments, so you don’t have to buy in pounds only;                                                        Produce is usually pretty good, though you need to be really specific if you want something “ripe” or “green” or else you may get avocados that won’t be ripe for a year;      HEB does carry some more unusual things, like chicken necks and feet(for bone broth), oxtails, a wide variety of their own brand, a big selection of natural and organic foods as well as a really good seafood and grass fed protein section.                                                Cost: most things are slightly less expensive than Kroger, but the variety of products from other countries, especially Mexico, are much better. In all honestly, their beef tends to taste better as well.                                                                                                                            While HEB does have some online coupons you can apply, a lot of their specials are “in-store” coupons and they do NOT apply to curbside orders, so you can’t take advantage of them.                                                                                                                                                          Where HEB coupons and specials do have an advantage over the others: you can see the savings in your cart immediately, not after the sale like Kroger does.                                        This can be a benefit if you are budgeting or if you need to spend a certain amount to get things like fuel points(Kroger) or other store related perks.                                                        Cocinaware kitchen goods. This is a really good, but inexpensive line of bakeware, kitchen gadgets, etc. The 3 different HEB stores I’ve been to all have a nice selection, so if you run out of measuring spoons or you need a ladle or a mixing bowl, check this label out.

Added bonus: HEB also offers grocery delivery in my area.                                                 I’ve used it a few times and it’s great!                                                                                          The items you purchase have a small markup to cover the cost, and you have to pay for the service AND tip the delivery person, so it can add to your overall grocery cost quite a bit (say 5-6% overall) if you buy a lot.                                                                                            As an occasional option when you may be under the weather, or just have a small list, or when you know it’s going to be crazy at the store because of holidays or something, it’s nice to know it’s available.

Kroger:

Cost for the service is $4.95                                                                                                                  Note system for specifying exactly what you want is very good.                                                Produce is mostly organic and usually top quality.                                                                      Very large digital coupon system that works for the curbside pickup.                                    They are usually ready as soon as you get there, whereas HEB and Wal-mart can be a 15-20 minute wait.                                                                                                                                        Many items have a Private Selection or Kroger brand equivalent that are very good, though not always much of a cost point difference. If I can get a name brand for $3, and the Kroger alternative is $2.99, I’m probably going with the name brand. SOME products have a big difference though and it’s well worth checking out if you usually buy a certain major brand.                                                                                                                                            Locally they carry Nolan Ryan beef that is natural, antibiotic and hormone free.                  The Private Selection kettle cooked potato chips are better than Lays and other brands lol.                                                                                                                                                              Toilet tissue: their brand Home Sense mega rolls toilet tissue are better than Charmin. I am not kidding. And the rolls are bigger, over an inch taller than Charmin, so aside from being less expensive ($1-$4 per pack) you’re also getting an extra roll out of every 6 rolls because of the size difference. (HEB also has a very good store brand of mega rolls).                         The local Kroger is a big flagship store, so it has a HUGE selection of everything from kitchen small appliances to seasonal decorations, to clothing!, everyday things for grilling and cooking, etc.                                                                                                                      The deli is great. Big selection, although they only work in full pounds, you can note that you want less. It’s hit and miss on if they will do it, but I’ve had 2 out of 3 orders that were correct (1/3 pound of provolone sliced on #1 no paper between slices is my go-to to see if they can do it).                                                                                                                              Their ground beef is hit-and-miss on flavor. I’ve bought some great and some that didn’t have a beefy taste at all.                                                                                                                        They have been pretty good about substituting. Not as good as HEB, but good. Example: frozen shrimp was on sale, 1 pound bags buy 1-get 1 free. They were out of the 1 pound that were on sale and substituted a 2 pound bag for the same price, but when salmon was on sale for $4.99  a pound(frozen Atlantic not farm raised), they did not substitute the fresh salmon from the seafood counter, they just said they were out of stock.                The pick-up area here is clearly marked and it’s in front, not around the side or back like HEB and wal-mart are.                                                                                                                          The fuel point bonus is worth it, to me. With $0.10 off per gallon for every $100 you spend (not rolled over, re-starts every month) you can really save quite a bit filling up there if you buy a lot of groceries.

Wal-Mart: least favorite

Ok this is probably JUST my local store, so take that into consideration lol.                            The pick up area is around the back side of the store and, even though it’s clearly marked, people still park in the few slots they have available for pick-up. That isn’t wal-mart’s fault, but they need to maybe ask people not to park there or something.                  When you call in to let them know you’re there (use the phone app instead, trust me), you may need to call back 2-3x to actually get them to bring your stuff out.                            Produce: not awful, but I seem to get stuff that is bruised, sometimes actually split(like tomatoes) or moldy, overripe and should have been tossed out not sold, or so under-ripe you could build a foundation with it.                                                                                                Substitutions: “we’re out”, “can’t locate”, “no longer carry”, “ran out”, and my favorite was ordering gluten free crackers and they substituted regular ones. I was not told of the substitution, but it was noted on the receipt.                                                                                  I told them no to a bread substitution, it was removed from my cart but not my bill, so I had to call twice to have that remedied, which was a little annoying.                                        Overall, this service is pretty new (only a few months) so I may give them until after the Holidays to work out the kinks and try them again.

Summary:

If you’re an “ooh that looks good!” shopper, you may not like not seeing/feeling the products first.

You can save money and budget pretty well using this kind of service.

You do miss out on some coupon savings, though it reads that all 3 that I mentioned are trying to incorporate more into their services.

You miss out on mark downs, which can = big savings, so if it’s a week you usually stock up on meats for the month (or whatever), you’re better off going in to the store.

Both HEB and Kroger offer a waved fee if you buy certain things or spend a certain amount, or there’s another special going on.

Not having to deal with shelf stockers being in the way, busy parking lots, crowded stores with long line, can make these services worth it for your mental health.

You can usually set a pick up time up to 3 days in advance, and Kroger allows you to adjust your order until midnight the night before your scheduled pickup, so it’s a nice option if you forgot something.

Exogenous ketone supplements: Do they work?

I tried Pruvit a while back and ended up with such a Pavlovian response to the taste that I could not continue.

In the “diet” world, especially low-carb and it’s “keto” offspring, there are always questions about ketone producing supplements.

I ran across this current article and wanted to share it:

Diet Doctor: Exogenous ketone supplements: Do they work?

Interestingly, the verdict on their un-official, very small test group was a big “NO”.

Personally, I found adding a teaspoon each of Kerrygold butter and MCT oil to my coffee or tea (dubbed “bulletproof coffee”)yielded similar results, and I didn’t gag at the thought of drinking it.

Even on lower calories and moderate carbohydrates, since I don’t typically eat breakfast, I found the “bulletproof” coffee, in the teaspoons added, did not seem to effect my weight loss.

I Decided I NEEDED A New Kitchen Gadget

Ok. I admit it: I am a kitchen gadget junkie.

There are 2 stores that cater to my particular addiction: Amazon and Best Buy.

Best Buy has a “deal of the day” email where you can get 50% or more off of items they sell, and many times those are kitchen small appliances.

My new toy: a Kitchen Aid stand mixer.

Now, before I complain about the cost, I will say that I have purchased many stand mixers over the last 7-10 years, ranging from $35 to $70 and, without fail, each HAS failed, usually due to internal plastic parts. So if I look at it logically, I’d have spent less in total if I’d just bought the Kitchen Aid first(and yes, this reasoning works on my husband lol).

Another benefit: He can get me attachments for Christmas! See: win-win!

Now the reason I’m writing this blurb isn’t about the mixer itself, but a specific attachment: the Vegetable Sheet Cutter . Revolutionary if you’re wanting to add more veggies to your meals in a sneaky fashion.

I’ve only used it to sheet cucumbers (and rolled tuna salad in them as a wrap -worked fantastic!); and zucchini, of course. The recipe below is a pasta fake-out using zucchini sheets instead of pasta.

Never fear, if you don’t have the sheet cutter, just use a vegetable peeler and make as wide of slices as you can, then make a lattice pattern to form sheets.

Rolled Ricotta Florentine Manicotti-ish (makes 4 servings)

  • 8 oz part skim ricotta cheese
  • 4 oz cream cheese – softened
  • 2 oz finely grated Parmesan cheese (the green can is fine)
  • 10 oz frozen spinach, thawed and drained until it’s very dry then finely chopped
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2T (about 4 leaves) chopped fresh basil -optional
  • 2 zucchini sheeted or 4 zucchini using a vegetable peeler as described above
  • 1 cup of your favorite pasta sauce

Make the zucchini “pasta” first and places on paper towels to drain just a bit.

You want enough to make 8 rolls about 5-6″ long each.

In a mixer or by hand: mix the cheeses, eggs, basil if using, and salt and pepper well. Mix in the spinach until it’s well distributed. *While this recipe does not call for bread crumbs, you may need a little more Parmesan if it’s too wet.

Preheat oven to 350f. Spread 1/4 cup of the pasta sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 baking pan and spread it around in a thin layer, it will barely coat the bottom but that’s all you want.

I find it easiest to divide the filling into 8 servings to start with, then fill and roll each sheet and place, seam side down, in the pan. Repeat until you’ve made 8 rolls.

Pour the remaining sauce evenly over the top and bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Let cool slightly (5-10 minutes) for the filling to firm up before serving.

*If you make your own sauce, or a meat sauce, make sure it’s very thick because the zucchini will give off some moisture when it bakes.

**If you like, sprinkle some shredded mozzarella on top 5 minutes before removing from the oven.

Book Review: Eat Clean, Lose Weight & Love Every Bite

Meh.

Ok the details:

The book is a collaboration with Wendy Bazilian(DrPH, RD) and Prevention magazine.

$31.95 is pretty steep for a book, in my opinion. It’s a hard cover book, there are photos of the recipes, but only in a center segment, not with the recipes.

The first 95 pages are devoted to the plan outline, a pretty extensive shopping list, before and after bio stories, “good versus bad” foods, and the usual.

They push organic, grass fed, free range, etc -which is not unusual.

Unlike a lot of “clean eating” plans, this one does include beans and whole grains, nuts, milks and cheeses.

There are about 180 recipes according to the cover (I didn’t count) but none of them are “ooh I’ve never seen that before” types.

Overall, I feel like I paid $32 (about the cost of 2 grass fed sirloin steaks, organic fresh green beans and organic zucchini with grass fed butter) to learn that you should eat: grass fed steaks, organic veggies and grass fed butter.

Is it anything eye-opening: no.

Are the recipe unique: no.

Would I recommend it: nope. You can find all this info for free by searching pinterest and google blogs for “clean eating”.

eclw

Tropical Treat Yogurt Dessert

I try to limit my “fake” foods, but sometimes you just need something to “hit the spot” for that sweet tooth.

There are thousands of variations of this recipe out there, but this is my personal Summertime favorite.  It’s just very refreshing and revitalizing.

Tropical Treat Yogurt Dessert

3 servings @ 3WW Freestyle points per serving; 4 servings @ 2 points per serving

  • cup Fage Total 0% Plain nonfat Greek strained yogurt, plain
  • medium banana(s), chopped roughly
  • container Dole Pineapple Tidbits, in 100% pineapple juice (4oz. cups)
  • 1package(s)fat-free sugar-free instant vanilla pudding mix, Or cheesecake flavor
  • 1tsp coconut extract, optional
  • Tbsp chopped walnuts
  • Instructions

    • Pulse the banana in a food processor a few times to start breaking it up.
    • Add the yogurt, extract if using, liquid from the pineapple cup (approx 2 tablespoons pineapple juice) and pudding mix.
    • Blend well, adding in a little water or almond milk if needed if it’s too thick.
    • Transfer to a bowl and fold in the pineapple and nuts.
    • Refrigerate for 30 minutes and enjoy.

**I’ve made this, and other yogurt based treats, using baby food fruits. They’re uniquely portion controlled, high quality and readily available year around.

Blueberry Scone-iscuits (kind of a scone, kind of a biscuit texture)

Scones are pretty much impossible on Weight Watchers due to the amount of butter needed to get the right texture.

This is my version that’s denser and not as “tender”, more like a biscuit. I’m sure there’s a technical baking term for it, but I have no idea what it is lol.

Blueberry Scone-iscuits (kind of a scone, kind of a biscuit texture)

Makes 8 servings @ 4 Weight Watchers Freestyle points per serving or 6 servings @ 5 Weight Watchers Freestyle points each

  • 2 cups all purpose flour + 1 T for dusting hands
  • Tbsp baking powder
  • 1tsp baking soda
  • packet(s) Splenda Naturals Sugar & Stevia sweetener blend, or 4 tablespoons sweetener of your choice
  • 1cup(s)Plain fat free Greek yogurt
  • cup (s) unsweetened frozen blueberries, thawed and patted dry or fresh, washed and patted dry
  • tsp vanilla extract
  • Tbsp fresh lemon juice, Optional juice plus zest of 1 lemon
  • 16spray(s)I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! Original spray, 2 sprays per piece
  • tsp sugar, for sprinkling on top, optional
  • Tbsp butter, melted
  • Preheat oven/toaster oven to 375f.
  • Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  • Sift dry ingredients except the sugar; mix yogurt, vanilla, and lemon juice and zest if using.
  • Toss the 1T flour with the blueberries.
  • Gently combine the wet and dry ingredients and blueberries, kneading as lightly as possible to pat it into about an 8″ circle on the prepared pan.
  • Using a sharp long knife, or pizza mezzalune, cut the dough into 8 equal “pie” pieces and move them slightly apart so they can spread a little when baking.
  • Bake for 15 minutes, then spritz with the butter spray(or brush with melted butter) and sprinkle with the sugar and bake an additional 3-5 minutes.
Notes

You can substitute low-sugar craisins and orange juice/zest in this for a cranberry orange variation.

The Butter spray adds no points, the butter is 5 points for 1 tablespoon, so zero per serving. Use either option.

 

Cauliflower “Rice” Southwest Salad

Summer and salads go together well. Cool, refreshing, easy to make, meal prep favorites.

This is my spin on a rice salad with a Southwest spin that can be eaten chilled or heated. I prefer it chilled because it’s an easy go-to topped with grilled chicken or steak.

Cauliflower “Rice” Southwest Salad

Makes 6 @1 WW Freestyle point per serving

  • 12oz bag frozen cauliflower, thawed and riced (I use this method for super easy ricing)
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed to remove excess salt
  • 1 can sweet corn, drained
  • 1 jalapeno (to taste)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 small onion
  • cilantro to taste, chopped finely
  • 2T lime juice plus the zest of 1 lime
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon ground cumin (to taste)
  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (optional, adds 1 WW Freestyle point per 2 servings)
  • salt and pepper to taste (optional: 1/2 teaspoon chili powder)

Once the cauliflower is riced, drain it very well then microwave for 3 minutes, stir and drain again.

In a food processor pulse the onion, jalapeno and garlic until finely minced.

Toss everything together and refrigerate for 1 hour to blend flavors, up to 5 days.

Avocado Bean Dip or Humm-ish

We all know the nutritional value of an avocado: healthy monounsaturated  fats, a good amount of fiber, over 20 vitamins and minerals, a great source of natural potassium and it tastes great.

On Weight Watchers Freestyle, avocado comes in at 1 point for 1 ounce, and 7 points for 5 ounces (the amount I use in this recipe).

Picking an avocado takes a little knowledge. Here is a good primer to make sure you get a ripe, but not over ripe, fruit.

Avocado Bean Dip or Humm-ish)

This entire recipe is 7 weight watchers freestyle points, but use common sense because it is a calorie dense food.

  • 5oz avocado (this was 3 small avocados for me)
  • 15oz can great northern beans*, drained and rinsed well
  • 1/2 a small jalapeno (or more, to taste)
  • 3/4 teaspoon Garlic Salt*
  • 2oz water (this is simply to thin out the dip, use more or less as needed)
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 1 lime, juice and zest (about 2T juice)
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin or 1/4 cup cilantro*

Start by placing the beans and jalapeno in a food processor and pulse to start breaking up the beans.

Once they look a little like a coarse meal, add everything else except the water and pulse, scraping down the sides occasionally, and adding water as needed, to reach the consistency you prefer.

Refrigerate at least an hour to let the flavors develop.

*I like great northern or white kidney beans for the creaminess they give this, and the color of the avocado comes through. Any bean you like will work: pinto, black beans, even lima beans.

*I use McCormick Coarse Grind Garlic Salt With Parsley because I like the flavor and that it’s more garlic than salt in taste.

*I am not using fresh cilantro currently due to yet another food borne illness outbreak possibly associated with cilantro.