Introducing my sister to pressure cooking (A Vegan Mexican Feast!)

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by JL FIELDS on APRIL 5, 2013

I am home, in Colorado Springs, and getting back into a routine after my time away. I’m working on a big project with my higher education consulting client and gearing up for my next vegan lifestyle class that begins next week. I did find time yesterday to go to Home Depot to buy a new grill (we left our old, tiny one in New York when we moved). The forecast is calling for sunny skies and 70 degrees today so you can bet I’ll have some veggies and tofu on that grill for dinner!

Today I want to share what I promised over the weekend. A recap of teaching my sister how to use her pressure cooker. Last March I vacationed in Florida with my parents, two sisters, my niece and my aunt.  By the end of our week together my incessant chatter about the pressure cooker got to my sister and she ordered one. She put it together as soon as she got it. And she never used it.

Last week, while home with the family in Iowa and Illinois, we dusted off her pressure cooker

Presto Pressure Cooker

and put it to use – big time.

We started slow.  She brought it to mom and dad’s so that I could make some quick potatoes for Easter dinner.

Pressure Cooker Mashed Potatoes on JL goes Vegan

I brought a cup of vegetable broth to a boil in the uncovered pressure cooker. I added the potatoes, washed and whole, and closed the lid. I cooked at pressure for six minutes and then used a quick release (hold the covered pressure cooker under running cold water in the sink). Once pressure was released, I removed the cover, away from me, and added a splash of almond milk and a pat of vegan butter and mashed with a hand masher.

The next day I went to her house for the “lesson” because she has a gas stove, which I prefer and she might as well learn on what she has, right?

Since I knew we would spend a few hours in her kitchen I thought it would be nice to make foods that would result in dinner for the entire family – we planned a Mexican feast!

We went shopping early that morning for the items I wanted her to pressure cook – I selected foods that required a variety of cooking times to demonstrate the versatility of the pressure cooker:

  • Quinoa – 1 minute
  • Steel-cut oats – 5 minutes
  • Mashed potatoes – 6 minutes (made the previous day)
  • Vegetable broth – 10 minutes
  • Brown rice – 18 minutes
  • Pinto beans (unsoaked) – 22 minutes

I spent a little time showing her the different parts to her Presto pressure cooker (this is an affiliate link). Um, there aren’t many! Pot, lid, pressure regulator (jiggly top) and the overpressure plug. I did suggest that she purchase a steamer basket and trivet for vegetables (and a copy of Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure – affiliate link!)

We got to it!

Pressure Cooker Lesson with JL Fields on JL goes Vegan

My sister pressure cooking and my niece taking notes. LOVE.

We started with vegetable broth so that we could use some later in our cooking. I explained how I use veggie scraps to make stock but since she didn’t have saved scraps we used an onion, four cloves of garlic, eight carrots, six stalks of celery, eight cups of water + sage and oregano.  We cooked it at pressure for 10 minutes and allowed a natural release (remove from the burner and allow the pressure come down, which takes 10 – 15 minutes).  It smelled great and it tasted great!

Next up was steel-cut oats. These oats were new to my sister and I was excited for her to try them.  These are so simple. One cup of oats, three cups of water, cook at pressure for five minutes. Natural release. Done! She loved them (and reported back to me a few days later that she is never eating rolled oats again).

We moved on to brown rice. Use 1 and 1/4 cup water to 1 cup of brown rice. Cook at pressure for 18 minutes and allow for a natural release. The rice came out perfect and she was duly impressed.

Then it was time for beans. We forgot to soak the beans overnight so we had to opt for a longer cooking time.  Since we planned on using the quinoa and beans as part of our Mexican feast, we made refried beans:

  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 jalapeños
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 16 ounces dry pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 6 cups of water
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Sea salt to taste

We sautéed the jalapeños, onion and garlic in olive oil on medium heat in the uncovered pressure cooker. We added the beans and water, covered the pressure cooker and brought to pressure. We cooked at pressure for 20 minutes (it could have gone for 22 minutes), did a quick release so we could check for doneness – almost, but not quite!- so we simmered the beans on low heat, uncovered, and added lemon juice and a bit of salt. Since we needed the pressure cooker for the quinoa we transferred the beans into a sauce pan (we removed about a cup of the cooking liquid but kept the rest in the pan with the beans). We mashed the beans with a hand masher, covered the saucepan and kept warm on simmer while we finished cooking dinner.

Finally we made the quinoa: 1 and 1/2 cup liquid (we used the homemade vegetable broth) to 1 cup dry quinoa. There was a potential for pressure cooker fatigue at this point, which is why I saved the quinoa for the last dish.  It truly cooks at pressure foronly one minute.  It came out oh-so-fluffy. We made a big batch of quinoa and I tossed it with fresh salsa for a variation on Spanish rice.

A few hours in the kitchen resulted in tons of food (I suggested she cook larger quantities – bulk cooking – so that she could freeze and/or reheat throughout the week) and in dinner for the entire family (eight of us!). Check out this fabulous feast! [click to continue…]

JL Fields is co-author of the forthcoming Vegan for Her: The Women’s Guide to Being Healthy and Fit on a Plant-Based Diet and writes the blog JL goes Vegan.

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