My Last Day of Christmas Break

This summer, I purchased a pressure canner. It has become one of my favorite tools. I had wanted one for years, and after making too much corn on the cob for the 4th of July, I really wanted to can the leftovers because my freezer was full. I had used a water bath canner for years, but was excited to spread my wings challenge myself to canning meats, beans, vegetables, soup, etc.

I went and bought it, yes, I went that night and bought it! It was already 8:00pm by the time I got home.  I canned that corn until 1:00am, loving every minute of it. Yes, I am insane! Now, six months later, I have over 100 jars of food in my reorganized basement pantry. I have a variety of beans (kidney, garbanzo, and pinto,) corn, green beans, red cabbage, peaches, blueberries, barbecue sauce, pickles, potatoes, jams, chicken, pork, sloppy joes, and just a few days ago I canned chicken soup. I plan to can chili, more meat, and some more jam in the months to come.

But today is the last day of Christmas Break, and my family needs something yummy and healthy to eat. Enough with over-indulgence. We need to get back to the weight watchers meals and drop some more pounds! So I decided to make banana bread? Yes, I had 12 frozen bananas taking up too much space in my freezer, so I whipped up 3 large loaves of banana bread, using my new cast iron loaf pan for one. That loaf turned out the best!

One of my loaves. It looks slightly burnt in the picture, but it wasn’t. 

The banana bread will be perfect for my little girls to eat for breakfast. And if we save up enough points during the day, we can also have a slice. I figured that each slice is about 6 – 8 points. Without butter. Yeah, it’s pricey, but ohh so good!

My official start time = 4:30pm

Zesty Peach Barbecued Chicken Breast 11800587_10153237943459737_6789009821850634242_n.jpg (800×800)

I put 4 chicken thighs and 4 skinless chicken breasts in a baking tray and slathered on some of my homemade zesty peach barbecue sauce from the Ball Canning recipe. I covered the meat and baked it at 350 F for 30 minutes and then checked it. I slathered on some more sauce and baked it uncovered for 45 more minutes until the internal temperature was 165F.

Meanwhile, the banana bread also baked away in the oven. I made some rice in my rice cooker, and heated up my homemade canned green beans with mushrooms. This recipe is from my new Ball Canning Book.


When the chicken and rice were done, and the green beans were heated up, we sat down for a wonderful meal. We added even more of the zesty peach barbecue sauce, and served up some canned peaches to help take away from the heat of the sauce. Supper was wonderful.

Our goal is to stay around 15 smartpoints per meal. The sauce was 5 points per serving, the rice was 4 points, the chicken was 3 points, and the peaches were 4, for a total of 16 points. That was close enough to our goal of 15 to make us happy eaters! I cleaned up the table and baking supplies and returned my kitchen to normal.

My kitchen was closed at 7:17 pm

So, in less then three hours I had three loaves of yummy banana bread and a healthy meal of zesty peach barbecued chicken with rice, green beans and canned peaches. I also had all of the dishes in the dishwasher and the kitchen was returned to normal. I’d call that a pretty good night!

Now, back to work!

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Chicken Soup – Part 1 – Bone Broth

It’s winter. Christmas is finished. The house is chilly in the mornings and we are home for a week from school. What’s a great way to warm up the house on a day where the high temperature is only 19 F? Can up some chicken soup!!

It’s an easy two day process, and surprisingly, it isn’t a lot of work. Of course I use my Electric Pressure Cooker, which is one of my favorite tools,  to make it even easier! This makes the best broth I have ever made. My youngest daughter will drink the broth alone, it’s THAT good! (Read 5 Things I Love About My Pressure Cooker)

I start with chicken legs or thighs. Today thighs were priced pretty cheaply, so I picked up a family pack.

Bone Broth Ingredients – 6 Chicken thighs, 2 carrots, 2 stalks of celery, one onion, garlic, 12 cups of water.

I used six thighs for the bone broth and froze the other four to be used in another meal. I tossed the meat in the electric pressure cooker, washed and cut up (cutting in large hunks… you don’t have to dice this up to look pretty because it won’t be eaten, it is purely for flavor) 2 carrots, 2 stalks of celery, an a large onion. You can leave the leaves on the celery stalks for even more flavor. SO EASY! Put it all in the pot, add a clove or two of garlic if you like (we do) and 12 cups of water.


No seasonings are added, and still, the broth will taste fantastic! I do add salt when using it for soups, but I don’t add it here. I add the salt after the broth had been cooked and cooled. Next, the lid for the pressure cooker gets locked into place, the vent is set to closed, and the timer is set for 60 minutes. That’s it. Now we wait.

After it has come up to pressure and cooked for 60 minutes, I let it come down from pressure naturally. This takes time. I usually make bone broth on a weekend, or a Friday night when I get home from work so that it is finished by the time I’m ready for bed. When I open the lid, it is beautiful! And the smell? Whoa!

I wish you could smell this!

I let it cool a bit and then I carefully scoop out the big pieces of chicken (trying to keep them in one piece as much as possible), and I scoop out as much of the carrots, onion, and celery as I can. I set them in a bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and store it in the fridge for tomorrow. Next I remove the inner pot of the pressure cooker, cover it with plastic wrap, and  put it into the fridge.

Done. For today. Tomorrow, we make and can the soup.

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Comparison of Top 4 Electric Pressure Cookers

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With Christmas coming, one of the top small kitchen appliances will surely be on many gift lists. With so many different brands and features available, the search for the perfect electric pressure cooker could be daunting.  Well, get yourself a fresh beverage and take a look at the comparisons that I've done for you. I hope that this will help you to choose the best electric pressure cooker for you, or someone you love!

And now….. the ratings,  based upon the 10 most recent reviews on Amazon as of this posting date. 

The Instapot DUO 060 7 in 1 Multicooker received 6 five star ratings, 1 four star rating, 2 three star ratings and 1 one star rating. Positive comments included that users love the saute feature, love the delay and slow cooker feature, and that it worked perfectly every time. Some negative comments about this unit were that users need to experiment to get the timing right, that it takes longer than other brands to come to pressure, and that it can be complicated to use. Despite this, the Instapot DUO 060 remains the #1 best seller on Amazon in Small Kitchen Appliances. 

The Cuisinart CPC 600 received 6 five star ratings and 4 one star ratings. Positive comments included that it is easy to use, easy to clean, and convenient to use. Some negative comments were that it did not build pressure, it burned the food, and that it worked fine in the beginning but then slowly stopped working.  





The Power Pressure Cooker XL earned 6 five star ratings, 1 four star rating, and 3 one star ratings. Positive comments were that it is simple to use, it is used almost everyday, and that there is no mess, making it easy to clean. Some negative comments were that the pressure valve fell out when cleaning, the owner's manual was unclear, and the pressure valve failed. 

Finally, the Elite Platinum EPC 808 BL earned 9 five stars and 1 one star. Positive comments included that it had a good user manual, was easy to use, and you could set it and forget it. Some negative comments were that it did not work, that the company wouldn't replace the unit, and that the company would only respond online.  

No matter which unit you decide is best for you, one thing will become absolutely true. You will LOVE your new appliance and just like me, you will probably wonder how you ever lived without it! Click here to see WHY I LOVE MINE SO MUCH!








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5 Things I Love About My Electric Pressure Cooker

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About a year ago I purchased this Elite 8 qt. electric pressure cooker, and I can tell you that I have been in love ever since. Seriously, how does anyone survive without one of these?

Elite 8 qt. Electric Pressure Cooker
Elite 8 qt. Electric Pressure Cooker

There are so many different models to choose from, and I did my research before selecting this one. The major selling points for me at the time were that it was large enough to cook for large family gatherings (which it has), that I got it for a ridiculous pre-black Friday sale price (under $40 – HONESTLY!), and that I could use it for canning (which I never have). The only downside to this model for me is that it doesn't come with a steaming rack, something I wish that I had so that I could pressure cook eggs and other things that need to be up and off of the bottom heat plate. I can easily go out and purchase a steaming basket, taking care that it will meet the measurements to fit into my electric cooker.

Now that I've had this baby for a year, I've had a lot of people asking me questions about it, wondering if they should take the plunge and buy one. I answer their questions honestly, and have developed a list of the things I love about using my electric pressure cooker:


5 Things I Love About My Electric Pressure Cooker

1. It makes terrific tasting food, quickly!
After I purchased the pressure cooker and gave it a good washing, I made our first meal, without using a recipe. I dumped in some frozen chicken breasts, a jar of Alfredo sauce, frozen broccoli, and pasta. I read the directions carefully about cooking pasta under pressure, set the timer, and waited. We waited a long time (probably longer than the cooking time) before I realized that pressure couldn't be reached until a certain temperature had been reached, so starting with all frozen foods made it a much longer process. But, when it was finished and I opened the lid, everyone in the family looked inside with a smile on their faces. It was SOO good!
The next meals I made were also hits. In fact, there hasn't been one bad meal from the electric pressure cooker! My kids have loved everything I've made. I've made soups, beef rouladen, pork roasts, pork chops, ribs, chicken wings, and our family's favorite, Swedish meatballs. When my children ask, "What's for supper?" and I answer with, "a pressure cooker meal," they reply with, "Yum!" and it doesn't matter what I'm making.
I can make a homemade meal in less than thirty minutes that tastes like I've been cooking all day. All of the infomercials say this for one reason, it's true!

2. I can raid the freezer and start with frozen meat, NO THAWING folks!
Yes, that first meal took a longer time to cook than later meals. I have learned that the cooking time goes much faster when I brown the meat first and then add warm liquids for cooking, but the fact is that if I'm in a hurry for a last minute meal, I can dump frozen ingredients in the thing and just wait a little longer than I would have by using thawed ingredients.
I've also used it to make what my family now refers to as "pantry meals" or "freezer meals." Basically, I hunt for extra ingredients that have been sitting around in the pantry and the freezer combining them with whatever meat I have available to make some pretty fabulous dishes. We have fun trying to name them!
3. I can take it with me when I travel.
In the past year, I have used the pressure cooker in a hotel room and while camping. Often, while traveling, the routine of fast food and other restaurants breaks our hearts while also breaking the bank. Fast food is rarely satisfying, and it's expensive. My pressure cooker has given us good meals on the road, saving money and making our meals out more special.
Yes, I have cooked in my hotel room. I also have a travel kitchen stocked with the things that I need. I wash out the inner cooking pot in the bathroom sink and pack it away when I'm finished. I have heard of people using slow cookers in hotel rooms, but I'm afraid to leave it out in the open when housekeeping comes knocking on the door. My pressure cooker stays packed away until I need it, and I'm right there during the entire cooking process, should anything unexpected happen (and it never has).
This past summer we took our camper "Out West" to Mt. Rushmore and Yellowstone. To keep the electric pressure cooker safe while driving, I packed it carefully in our truck. Our first meal in the camper with the pressure cooker was Swedish Meatballs – super fast and easy! I got everything set up, and pressed start. A few minutes later, I blew a fuse in the camper. Lesson learned: When using the outlet on the camper to run the pressure cooker, make sure that the A/C is turned off. They electrical system cannot handle both. A few minutes later, we reset the circuit, turned off the A/C and everything ended up fine. I've since used it camping several times since without any problem (after always remembering to turn off the A/C if we are using it). Our favorite meal in the campsite was a seafood boil complete with lobster, crab legs, shrimp, corn, potatoes, and sausage. YUM!
4. I know what I'm eating!
There has been so much more awareness towards the things that we consume and knowing how something is made and what is in it. I have always preferred cooking from scratch whenever possible, so that I know what ingredients and chemicals I am feeding to my family. By using the pressure cooker, my meals are homemade with ingredients that I have chosen. If I want low fat, I can use low fat ingredients, or low sodium, or organic. This way I always know what I'm eating!
5. It cooks hands free, so I can do other things until the meal is DONE!
The final thing that I love about my pressure cooker is that once it is locked and started, there is nothing for me to do. I can help my kids with homework, fold a load of laundry, watch a TV show in another room, even run a quick errand! The pressure cooker does not need babysitting. There is no boiling over, no reducing temperatures, you just wait. I didn't expect this benefit when I bought it, and it has been a lovely surprise!

So, if you are in the market for an electric pressure cooker, I encourage you to find the model that will be the best for you. There are a lot of resources on the Internet to answer your questions before making the purchase. After you have taken the plunge and used your electric pressure for the first time, you will wonder how you ever lived without it!


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