In a recent post, I asked readers to share their worst barbecue/grilling experiences that could have been spared if they’d had a decent instant-read thermometer.

ThermaPen and Grilled Chicken

Photo credit: ThermoWorks

I loved reading your comments, some of which are so funny you had me laughing out loud. But more than that, I learned that most of our grilling disasters involve chicken.

Grilled chicken should be delicious, moist, tender, and full of flavor. But all too often it turns out bloody raw in the middle or bone-dry and tough as shoe leather.

Here it is: Simple Secrets for Grilling Cheap Cuts of Meat

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I have loved my Instant Pot since the day it arrived back in 2016. I’ll admit to being slightly intimidated in the first few days but that was short-lived. Thanks to a few tips, tricks, and these ridiculously simple recipes, in no time I was making dinners in 30 minutes or less—start to finish.

Instant Pot DUO60 6 Qt 7-in-1 Multi-Use Programmable Pressure Cooker

Meals from my Instant Pot are as good (often better) than slow-cooked meals that I have to think about early in the day—and only one pot to clean at the end.

While there are plenty of recipes out there for electric pressure cookers, I find myself going back to my tried and true, no-brainer recipes that are as simple and the gadget itself.

All you need to pull this off in your kitchen is an Instant Pot, a few awesome, albeit it simple, recipes plus a general knowledge for how it works. Here are the basic terms:

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Getting our outdoor grill cleaned, polished and ready for summer got me thinking about how much fun it would be to celebrate. After all, the first day of summer comes but once a year, so why not do things up right with an amazing menu and a few good friends to kick off the season!

photo credit: combust

What happened next I can only attribute to a momentary lapse of good judgment. I visited the website of Lobel’s of New York, “the best source for the finest and freshest USDA prime dry-aged steaks, roasts, specialty meats, and gourmet products that money can buy.” Unveiling the mother of all outdoor grills seemed like an event worthy of a few high-quality American Wagyu steaks delivered overnight on a bed of dry ice. I checked the price. Gulp! One 20-oz Porterhouse steak: $159.95—plus overnight shipping.

Just the thought of forking out more than a hundred bucks on a single steak jerked me back to reality with enough force to cause whiplash. Surely there has to be frugal ground somewhere between Lobel’s and what’s left of the buy-one-get-one-free hotdogs sitting in the freezer. Read more

If there’s one food that signals the arrival of summer, it’s gotta’ be salad. Backyard gardens everywhere are bursting with beautiful tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, and basil.

But the same warm sun that nudges produce to perfection can also zap all the energy from the average cook. That’s why we love big, lovely summer salads. We can step away from the hot stove to eat well any night of the week.

big main dish vegetable salad with grilled chicken

And now the problem: How? Where’s the recipe? Truth be told, there really aren’t a lot of specific recipes for entree worthy salads. What we need is a formula of easy-to-remember yet specific steps that will let us use what we have already to create hearty summer meals that even our pickiest eaters will enjoy.

Start with a big bowl

Depending on how many you’ll be serving this may need to be really big. Because salad ingredients are generally low-energy density and high water content, you’re going to lean on volume to fill and satisfy even the hungriest member of the family.  Read more

Has this ever happened to you? You open the refrigerator to pull out salad greens to get dinner on the table, only to reach in and discover a wilted, slimy mess.

That romaine, iceberg or bag of pre-washed salad mix can’t be more than a few weeks old but there it is—and into the garbage, it goes. And don’t we hate when that happens!

Here’s the deal: There are ways to make salad greens last at least long enough to be consumed. But to be truly useful whatever we have to do to make it happen needs to be practical—that means quick, easy and reliable.

That’s why an experiment conducted over at thekitchn.com caught my eye and sent me running for a plastic food storage bin with a tight-fitting lid.

Here’s the story: Christine Gallary, TheKitchn editor-at-large, was determined to put an end to the mystery and myriad tips out there for storing salad greens by taking the three most popular methods and putting them to the test. The goal was to discover once and for all if the way we store fresh greens matters in the long run. She used a large bag of pre-washed mesclun for the test. Read more

There are two meals I prepare nearly every week—Crispy Skin Chicken Thighs and Honey Garlic Salmon. These are my go-tos because both are quick and easy—and so delicious they never grow old.

Even my grandsons, Sam 3 and Eli 9 agree. You should see them dive into this chicken. They’d eat it every meal if they had their way!

crispy-chicken-thighs

 

CRISPY SKIN CHICKEN THIGHS

This recipe is sophisticated enough for company, but perfect for a hectic mid-week dinner, too.  The ingredients are shockingly few. The secret for success and rave reviews from old and young alike is technique. It’s all about the technique! Get this right and you’ll have a new technique to use in other applications.

The secret is cooking chicken thighs skin-side down in a cast-iron skillet (or heavy, non-stick skillet) hot enough and long enough to render out the fat. This makes the skin crispy and, according to Eli and Sam, even better than bacon! I do agree (it’s so good), but what I love even more is that skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs are cheap. I buy them in bulk at Costco, where they are fresh, plump and packaged in groups of 4.

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As the story goes, the local inventor invited the town’s pastry makers to observe his latest inventionan automated pastry-making machine. To his dismay, the bakers deemed it unfit because it could not consistently turn out perfect pastries.

Not one to give up easily, the inventor took one of the chefs aside and asked, “What do YOU do when you make a mistake?”

“I cover it with chocolate,” he replied.

cover-cooking-mistakes-with-chocolate

With that, the inventor went back to his workshop, made a few strategic changes to his machine and invited the testers to return. To his joy, the pastry-makers were so impressed each of them commissioned a machine for their bakery. Little did they know he programmed it so that when something went wrong it sent a signal to simply cover it with chocolate.

The moral of our little story: It’s only a cooking mistake if you can’t come up with a clever way to cover the mistake. 

DRIED OUT STUFFING. If your Thanksgiving stuffing turns out dry as dust, don’t toss it out. Drizzle chicken broth over it, cover with foil and allow it to sit for several minutes. It will become soft and moist and no one will be the wiser.

RUNNY MASHED POTATOES. When making homemade mashed potatoes, if you misjudge and add too much liquid you can thicken by adding a small amount of uncooked instant potato flakes. If the mashed potatoes still seem too thin, wait a few minutes before adding more because the thickening occurs upon standing.

SALTY GRAVY. Gravy too salty? Don’t fret! If it’s only a slightly salty problem, add a pinch of brown sugar or 1/3 teaspoon white vinegar to counter the saltiness. For a more serious situation drop a peeled raw potato into the gravy and allow it to sit for a few minutes, stirring gently. The potato will absorb much of the salt leaving the gravy much improved.

SOFT FUDGE. If your homemade fudge refuses to set, put it back in the cooking pan over low heat, stirring constantly. Add just enough of the liquid you used in the recipe to bring it back to a simmer. As long as you can see large bubbles, keep simmering. When the bubbles reduce in size until they are almost nonexistent the fudge will be ready to set.

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Leftovers and I have a kind of love-hate relationship. I can’t bear the thought of tossing perfectly delicious food into the garbage just because I made too much of it.

So I pack it, seal it, and fill the refrigerator with it. Once leftovers are past prime—looking more like a science project than tomorrow’s dinner—I find that they’re so much easier to part with.

leftover-containers-of-food-in-a-refrigerator

The solution, of course, is to have an immediate plan for leftovers and then be diligent to follow through. Check out these terrific ideas!

COFFEE

Freeze it. Coffee ice cubes are great in iced coffee; they don’t dilute the drink as the ice melts. Or add your preferred milk and flavorings to the coffee and pour into Popsicle-type molds for a frozen treat tomorrow.

Make a Sauce: After pan-frying chicken or pork, deglaze the pan with coffee instead of wine for a deeper, Southern-style gravy.

Beef Jerky: Marinate beef slices in strong coffee and your favorite flavorings for up to eight hours, then dry the beef in the oven at 200ºF for about four hours.

Related: Make It Yourself: Beef Jerky, French Salad Dressing, Steak Sauce

Instead of Syrup: Combine hot coffee with melted butter and pour over pancakes or waffles.

Brine a Chicken: Coffee-based brines that include spices such as cloves, star anise, peppercorns and, of course, plenty of salt make for delicious and super moist roast chicken. Here’s a recipe for your consideration: Coffee Brined Chicken Breasts

Dress a Salad: For a simple coffee vinaigrette, cook equal parts brewed coffee, balsamic vinegar, and maple syrup on the stove at a low heat until the mixture is syrupy. Top it off with a little lemon juice.

Don’t miss: How to Get Started Roasting Your Own Coffee Beans 

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