Instant Pot Duck à l’Orange

A few weeks ago I purchased some duck at the grocery store, since it was actually cheaper than chicken for a change. (That doesn’t happen very often around here.) I hadn’t cooked duck before, and I’d only eaten it a few times before, mostly in a very thick, sweet orange sauce at a Chinese buffet. I had been warned that it was both gamy and greasy, though, so I though it would be a good idea to cook it in some kind of sauce instead of doing a basic oven roast. I settled on the Easy Duck à l’Orange from the Instant Pot Holiday Cookbook.

The whole process was made more difficult right away because I had a whole bird, not just four duck thigh quarters. I’ve only taken a bird apart a few times before, so it was very awkward and slow going, even after looking up tutorials online. I think it’s just something for which practice makes perfect. But one way or another the duck had to be broken down into smaller pieces, since otherwise it wouldn’t fit in the Instant Pot.

As for the final result, I was quite satisfied with the recipe, which cooked the duck thoroughly and with a lovely sauce. However, I think that when it comes to personal preference, I’m just not a duck gal. It was just too greasy for me. I think I might like it better on a rotisserie or in a dish that calls for no skin, though, since that would make the final dish less fatty.

As a bonus, I roasted the bones in the oven and made bone broth in the slow cooker, which I cooled and skimmed the fat off of before I froze it. I look forward to some duck broth soup in the future.

Quick & Easy

I needed a quick and easy dinner recently, something that didn’t take a lot of prep because it was a busy weeknight and I was already running around like a chicken with my head cut off.  So I threw some sticky rice in the instant pot, steamed some spinach in the microwave, and fried up a couple of eggs per person.

I topped the steamed spinach with a sprinkle of furikake (which is one of my favourite easy ways to liven up some dull vegetables, by the way), and it was done!  It wasn’t anything fancy, but it was healthy, fast, and cheap.  I’d estimate that it was less than $2.00 per serving — and it could have been much cheaper if I’d gone with the less pricey basmati rice instead of sticky rice.  Sticky rice is probably the most expensive kind of rice available at the grocery stores around here, although I’m sure there are other, more expensive kinds available in specialty stores.

Yuan-Style Salmon & Spinach with Bonito Flakes

After all of the work (and many hours of ingredient hunting) over the weekend for Sunday’s dinner, I thought I’d keep things a bit more simple on Monday night. I’d been meaning to try out some of the recipes from Ten-Minute Bento (Megumi Fuji, 2007), since they all looked delicious and relatively simple. I went through my cupboards to determine what I already had, prepped my shopping list, and then went out for the day. Easy peasy, right? Except that halfway through the day my eldest called from school to tell me she was feeling sick, and could I come and pick her up. So much for picking up the missing ingredients with the girls after school, then. Instead of the leisurely dinner prep I had been hoping for, I chucked the rice in the Instant Pot right before my husband came home, made a mad dash for the grocery store once he arrived, and returned home as quickly as possible. I know, I could have changed my dinner plans entirely, but at this point it would probably have taken longer to find another recipe, scrounge the house for ingredients, and likely defrost something from the freezer.

Luckily the recipes in this book are as simple as described, if not necessarily as quick. (It’s not a ten-minute bento if you have to cook the rice, marinade the fish for ten minutes, and then grill each side of the fish for 4 minutes per side. Just saying.) I upped the portions to make the bento on page 21 for four people, and we all greatly enjoyed our yuan-style salmon & spinach with bonito flakes. I would definitely make this recipe again. Honestly, if it hadn’t been for circumstances delaying me from getting the ingredients earlier, it would have been a snap! As a bonus, making the sticky rice in the Instant Pot was super easy and came out perfectly.

Faster Than Takeout

This weekend we found Candy Cane sleighing down the side of the staircase:

And petting the reindeer in the Little People Christmas train:

This morning we found her taking pictures of the family as they walked down the stairs:

Yesterday was a very busy day filled with Christmas visits, Christmas shopping with a good friend, and knitting (I’m finally on Stocking #3). All that didn’t leave me with much time to cook, but I didn’t want to eat out, so I compromised with some quick fixes from the grocery store.

That’s pork schnitzel from the butcher section; I’ve had schnitzel before, even had it in Germany, but I’ve never had the pre-made pork version from the grocery store. I didn’t have high hopes, but it wasn’t half bad! In an effort to keep in quick and simple, I served it with eggs over easy and a prepackaged spinach salad with clementine wedges, strawberries, cucumber, goat cheese crumbles, and sliced almonds. Overall, it was quicker than ordering takeout, and also both cheaper and healthier!

Jerusalem Artichokes

Last night I cooked up the Jerusalem artichoke tubers from my garden to go with dinner. Sadly, my two plants, which ended up topping my fence by quite a bit (and yet for some reason didn’t flower), only produced enough root veggies for me to make a single dinner’s worth. I Googled and found Jamie Oliver’s Jerusalem Artichokes with Garlic in an article titled Top 5 Jerusalem Artichoke Recipes. It looked simple enough that it would let their natural flavour shine through, so I thought I’d give it a go.

I’m happy to say that it was a success! I served the Jerusalem artichokes with barbecued chicken and steamed spinach. The family loved them, and Thing 2 even asked for a second helping of vegetables — how often does that happen?

Personally, I was rather surprised by the intensity of their flavour, since they look and smell quite a bit like a rather bland potato. I found them to be sweet and tangy, and utterly delicious. I think I’d like to make them again, but they’re not something that can be found in grocery stores around here. I will have to grow a whole bunch of them next year, I guess!

I was a little worried that the Jerusalem artichokes might aggravate my digestive tract, since the Internet is filled with dire warnings of how windy they can make you. I honestly don’t think they affected anyone in the family any worse than the average person eating something like beans or cabbage — definitely not enough of a reaction to be a deterrent for an occasional dish. Mind you, I did cook them thoroughly, which apparently can help break down the inulin (which is a starch that is broken down by bacteria in the colon, causing gas). Apparently regular artichokes have about twice as much inulin as Jerusalem artichokes, so if you’ve never had problems with artichokes before, you probably won’t with these either. Inulin can also be found in chicory, leeks, asparagus, sugar beets, onions, and garlic, among others. So if you’ve never had a problem with any of these foods, you probably won’t with Jerusalem artichokes either.

All that being said, if you’re allergic to sunflowers and/or sunflower seeds (which I know some of my friends are), treat Jerusalem artichokes with caution, as they are part of the same family. If you are anaphylactically reactive, I would highly recommend having a professional test before eating Jerusalem artichokes, or simply avoiding them altogether.

Chicken Salad Sandwich

Yesterday I made a visit to Costco, and was it ever slammed! I guess a lot of people lost a lot of their perishables to the power outage, and had to stock up. Not only that, but with the power out for so much of the weekend and a request for people to stay off of the roads Monday, most people weren’t able to do their weekend grocery shopping.

While I was at Costco, I picked up a rotisserie chicken, which at $7.99 for a fully cooked bird is the best price around, so far as I know. I honestly am not certain whether buying poultry cooked at a grocery store is more energy-efficient than cooking it at home, but I have an inkling that it is. If not, well, at least I wasn’t cooking it near dinner time, which tends to be a peak time for energy usage because so many of us have electric stoves and microwaves.

From what I understand, the rerouting of power around the downed Merivale power station means that the grid is just holding until the station is repaired. However, a large spike in energy usage, such as everyone running their A/C on a hot day, would likely black out the city again. So, to do my part I’m trying to be as conservative with my electricity as possible. (And did I mention that the tornado count for last Friday has gone up from two to six?)

At any rate, I decided to do another cold dinner, so I stripped the chicken carcass and chopped up all of the meat into bite-sized pieces. Then I mixed them with some chopped green onions and mayonnaise. I served the chicken salad with baby spinach on toasted ciabatta bread (also from Costco). As sides, I peeled oranges and sliced strawberries.

The weather yesterday was rainy and dull, so while cooking outdoors could have been done if necessary, I wasn’t really looking forward to it. Sadly, tomorrow’s weather isn’t predicted to be any nicer; actually, we’re supposed to get thunder and lightning again. Yay?

Bacon-N-Egg Bagels & Spinach Salad

What with the tornado over the weekend, and the resulting damage and power outages affecting hundreds of thousands of people across the city, my focus hasn’t exactly been on cooking for this last little while. Not only that, but the city has asked that we stay off the roads as much as possible to allow priority use for emergency and Hydro vehicles, and to use as little electricity as possible so as not to overload what’s left of the grid. Luckily it hasn’t been so hot that we’ve needed air conditioning, which is a huge power suck, and it hasn’t been super cold — although to take the edge off the temperature in the evenings, I’ve smelled a lot of fireplaces in the area being fired up earlier in the season than usual.

Not wanting to use a lot of electricity means that I’m not doing a lot of cooking that has long cooking times. That means no canning (which requires hours and hours of time with the stove running), or slow-cooked dishes that can run 24 hours or more to make. Bacon and eggs is honestly one of the quickest hot meals that I know how to make, so that’s what I went for. Fry up a package of bacon, make up four eggs over easy, and toast four bagels. Add the condiments of your choice and you’ve got a lovely sandwich that’s as good for supper as for breakfast. To make it a bit healthier, I added a nice salad made with baby spinach, avocado, and tomatoes from my garden. And that’s dinner in a flash!