Instant Pot Macaroni & Cheese

Pressure cookers are definitely the hot “it” appliance right now. I’ve had an old stainless model for years, that I use for canning – but at 16 quarts too big to use for general use in my kitchen. So this fall I hopped on the old bandwagon and purchased an 8-quart Instant Pot, and haven’t looked back since!

I’m hesitant about unitaskers in my kitchen, and I was skeptical how much I’d actually use the thing on a regular basis. Turned out I was pleasantly surprised, using it at least two times a week in my kitchen. To be able to make a quick chicken or vegetable stock in under an hour blows my mind.

Not to mention other tasks like potatoes cooked to perfection in a few minutes, dried beans that taste they’ve been simmering all day long in an hour, or this easy macaroni and cheese – which goes from pot to table in two shakes of a lamb’s tail (just a little over 10 minutes).

You could take it to the next level by pouring the finished mac into a baking dish and topping with more cheese (or breadcrumbs, if that’s your thing) and popping into the oven for a few minutes to melt. But, we usually don’t get that far. I’ve also been known to throw in a cup of diced ham and a chopped head of broccoli to bulk it up and make it a one-dish meal that everyone always loves.

Do you have an electric pressure cooker? What are some of your favorite recipes to make in it? Share in comments!

Well, we managed to make it through the Christmas season – now for the onward trudge to New Year’s. We’ve been super busy around here making merry for the past couple of weeks, and busy with school and Cub Scouts prior to that. It’s nice to have this time to kick back with family and relax, with no obligations other than maybe an evening get-together with a few friends down the street…

Drinks are in order, of course. And with as cold as it’s been the past couple of days, one that warms your bones and your belly is the only way to go. I’ve been missing the chai lattes from Sea Star Cafe now that they’re closed for the season (is it March yet?) – so I decided to do a boozy riff on that.

I used the fruit cream liquor Amarula, made by fermenting the marula fruit found in Africa. They’re doing a campaign through the end of the year to donate $1 for every bottle sold to WildlifeDirect to help save African Elephants. Delicious drinks and a good cause – win/win.

So, about that latte. I brewed a really strong chai concentrate, that can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week. Then, when I was ready to put it together I just warmed the concentrate. Topped off with some steamed milk and froth, and a dash of cinnamon.

The flavors of the chai – cardamom, cinnamon, star anise, black pepper, and ginger all played beautifully off of the fruity richness of the Amarula. It was such a treat, the flavors all together really reminded me of rice pudding. But like, the best rice pudding that you’ve ever had in your life….

It would be great as just a plain chai latte too, without the booze. Then again, where’s the fun in that?

Fall has arrived here on the Eastern Shore of Virginia – which means, oyster harvests are in full swing in the waters surrounding our little peninsula. From the salts on the seaside, to the sweeter guys harvested out of the Chesapeake Bay and the rivers on the western shore – we have such an amazing variety of oysters in Virginia.

A couple of weeks ago the Chincoteague Chamber of Commerce hosted it’s 45th Annual Chincoteague Oyster Festival – an event that’s anticipated all year long. Fried oysters, steamed oysters, raw oysters…a true celebration of the briny bivalve.

I was running around taking photos to earn my keep, in exchange for my ticket. But, I managed to tote over my little portable grill and snag a few oysters to throw on it, to get some photos to share of this super easy way to prepare them with you guys.

Oysters on the half, brushed with a simple garlic-herb butter while on the grill. Couldn’t get easier, delicious, or more impressive. If shucking isn’t your thing, you can steam them until they pop open, and then pry off the top shell – the garlic butter will still keep them plump and juicy.

If you’re really lucky, like I was on this particular day, you may find a tiny friend lurking inside your oyster. Pea crabs are considered a delicacy by many around here, tender yet slightly crunchy little crustacean parasites that like to set up shop inside our oysters. We eat them, but if it’s not your thing – by all means, serve them their final eviction notice before enjoying.

A few minutes on the grill is all you need, just until you see the butter start to sizzle. A little squeeze of fresh lemon juice to finish.  Enjoy them hot, and be prepared to reload the grill. You can’t eat just one!

Summer is winding down to a close here in our little beach town. We’ve been out and about in the boat and on the beach quite a bit this summer. So, there hasn’t been a ton of time for blogging. But, with the changing of the seasons I find myself wanting to be in the kitchen more. My pantry is seriously depleted, I’ll no doubt be taking a trip to the big city to restock soon. Winter is coming!

Perry’s Ice Cream reached out to me earlier this summer, about teaming up to spread the word that their ice cream is now available in Virginia Wegman’s locations – which, is always one of my favorite locations to stock the pantry…

I’ve had this frozen Mocha Mud Pie in my head for a long time, an homage to the dessert found at TGI Friday’s in the 90’s. When I tried their Cold Brew Coffee & Cream variety, I knew it would be the perfect fit for this cool & creamy dessert!

So many of the recipes I’d come across used instant pudding mixes and Cool Whip, and you guys know homey don’t play that. So, I kinda did my own thing. I went with an Oreo crust, then the coffee ice cream, and sealed the deal with a layer of mocha mousse. A quick refreeze, slice, and top with hot fudge and sliced almonds – for a little crunch.

Little squares of Heaven, I tell ya…the perfect sweet treat to send off summer!

Mocha Mud Pie

For the mocha mousse:
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tsp instant espresso powder
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

For the pie:
18 Oreo cookies, pulsed in food processor until crumbs
3 Tbsp butter, melted
1.5 quarts coffee ice cream (softened)
hot fudge sauce, for topping
sliced almonds, for topping

Line a 11×7 glass pan with aluminum foil, and a layer of non-stick spray. Combine cookie crumbs and butter in food processor until combined. Press evenly into the bottom of the baking dish to form the crust. Set aside.

To make the mousse, beat egg yolks in small bowl with electric mixer on high speed until thick and lemon colored. Gradually beat in sugar.

Heat 1 cup whipping cream in small saucepan over medium heat until hot. Gradually pour half of the hot cream into egg yolk mixture, whisking well; stir back into hot cream in saucepan. Cook over low heat about 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens (do not boil).

Combine espresso powder with 1 tablespoon hot tap water and add to mixture, as well as the chocolate chips, stirring until melted. Cover and refrigerate about 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until chilled but still soft. Towards the end of the cooling, take out our ice cream to let it get soft and easily spreadable.

Finish up the mousse by 1 1/2 cups whipping cream in bowl of electric mixer on high speed until stiff. Add 1/3 of whipped cream to the chilled chocolate mixture, whisking to combine and lighten. Gently fold in the remaining whipped cream until combined.

Assemble the pie by spreading a thick ice cream layer evenly over the crust, then topping with the mousse mixture and spreading evenly. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 2 hours before serving.

To serve, slice into squares (using a hot knife helps), and top with a generous portion of hot fudge and sliced almonds.

Makes around 16 squares.

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by the good folks at Perry’s Ice Cream. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.