Monday, March 20, 2017

BBQ Ribs in the Pressure Cooker

Do you enjoy ribs?  Like really good, fall off the bone, covered in sweet n' tangy sauce, need three napkins and most likely an oversize bib for your shirt RIBS?  Do you have an hour?  What if I told you it was possible to go from slab of raw ribs to tender BBQ perfection in about an hour. Magic, you say?  Almost. This wizardly device known as the Instant Pot has not only defied all laws of cooking physics, but it has converted me into a full-fledged believer.

The most amazing first time ribs we just cooked in the Instant Pot
Well I purchased the Instant Pot a while back, and I've done the basic boiling water test (hidden behind a pantry door in case it exploded), I've made perfect artichokes in 20 minutes multiple times (standing right in front of the machine with only slight trepidation), and made some delicious quick meals involving frozen chicken breasts in 15 minutes (without a second thought), much to the amazement of myself and my family.  I've joined the Instant pot Facebook page (I highly recommend) and it was there I kept seeing recipes for these delectable looking BBQ ribs float by.  Ribs are one of my favorite things. The only trouble is, I don't like wasting meat or ruining it in anyway, and my fear of not getting something right or wrecking a meal has made me shy away from buying cuts of meat. One day I told my hubby bravely... "I would like to try ribs in the pressure cooker next."  No less than 2 hours later he appears with a slab O' ribs. I think that's code for - he's pretty much on board. Okay, lets DO this.

The recipe we decide to try is from Jason over at the "Great Chow" on you tube.  It seemed simple, straight forward, only had a few ingredients, and the ribs looked quite tasty.  
You only need a few things: (printable recipe at the end)

Rack of ribs
Apple juice
Apple cider vinegar
Spice rub (optional)
Your favorite BBQ sauce

We found these ribs on sale for $2.97 a pound, and recently found them for $1.99 a pound, we're planning on stocking up.

So the first thing you want to do is remove the secret "invisible" silver skin from the underside of the ribs.  Flip them to the back side and carefully feel around on one end and pull up a little.  I used a paper towel because first of all touching raw meat gives me the heebie jeebies, but second of all it give you a better grip to pull. All of the sudden this thin sheet of something started to come up as you pull steadily.  Hey I actually DID it!! 

Pour four cups of apple juice into the Instant Pot, and about 1/2 cup to 1 cup (or two glugs) of apple cider vinegar.  Turn the pot on to "saute" to get the liquid to heat up a bit (until it's warm and steaming).

Usually I only cook with 1-2 cups of liquid so this seemed like a lot, but these ribs will be braised in the liquid
We added an extra step to the original recipe because we wanted to add a rub or little bit of seasoning to the meat.  My friend recently returned from Hawaii with this little gem... which contains, salt, pepper, paprika, cane sugar, Kona coffee, and dried parsley.

It said it was great with pork and seemed like the perfect thing to add.  Sprinkle on the rub and pat into the meat on both sides. (This part is optional, you can do this whole recipe with just the first four original ingredients).

This was a light "rub" just enough to give it some extra seasoning
Next he said to put the meat in the pot in the warm liquid.  Our rack of ribs were a little long, so we cut in in half.  I was slightly worried because some people recommended only putting a small amount of liquid in the bottom and have the meat resting on the trivet above it to steam the meat.  But we did as instructed and covered the meat with the liquid.  I was also concerned that the apple cider vinegar would give a funky taste to the meat, but alas, I was wrong.  Apparently the apple cider vinegar is an acid that tenderizes the meat and I can attest that there was no aftertaste at all, only that sought-after delicious meat-heaven taste. 

Into the Apple juice/cider vinegar bath with ye!

After the meat is safely in the liquid (thicker side down), seal up the Instant Pot, make sure the release valve is set for the sealing position and set the pot for "meat/stew" and check that it's set at "high pressure" and change the set time of 35 minutes down to 32 minutes.

When you hit the "meat/stew" it automatically calls up 35 min.  Use the minus sign to lower it to 32 minutes

Once the cook cycle is finished let it rest for 5 minutes before manually releasing the pressure (I used an oven mitt) 

Wasn't sure what to expect when I opened the lid... but the house smelled like ribs

Prepare a foil lined pan with a little cooking spray and carefully place the cooked ribs down on the pan.  They will be almost falling apart.

Slather the under side with your favorite BBQ sauce.  We decided to try Jack Daniels Hickory Brown Sugar BBQ sauce and it was spectacular. 

Get in all the nooks and crannies with the sauce

Then carefully flip the over and slather the other side.  

Put the pan of ribs in a 450ยบ oven for 10-15 minutes to caramelize the BBQ sauce.  We also broiled them for a few minutes right before taking them out to make the tops all brown and bubbly.

Hello little rib sauna... enjoy your glazing time
Pull the finished awesomeness out of the oven and let it rest for about 5 minutes (mostly so you don't burn your mouth).  

Activate "smell-o-vision" here
 Seriously.  I was so stunned that these things were:

     *Fall off the bone

Did I mention awesome?!

Look here's the pan when I tried to cut the first slab of ribs... the bone pulled clean away

How is this even POSSIBLE in 32 minutes??

Fork tender and so good!

Mmmmmm smell that tangy BBQ sauce.  That Jack Daniel knows whats up!

Serve with mashed potatoes and veggies, or corn on the cob and a side salad and your are in business!

Mmm Mmm good!

I'd like to thank Jason over at the "Great Chow" for this simple, yet amazing ribs recipe.  We could not have had better or easier instructions, and we were thrilled to get a such perfect BBQ baby back ribs meal and on our first attempt too.

So I am a total convert. I used to buy ribs already made, sauced, ready to heat up.  I'm never going back again these will be my go to ribs, and hubby mentioned that even if this is a starting off point for us to get inspired and experiment with these ribs as is were absolutely amazing. No go get yourself an Instant Pot, print up the recipe here, and start eating some good grub!  Enjoy!


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Mermaid Treasure Cake

My middle child wanted to have a mermaid themed party this year.  She didn't want specifically Ariel, but rather a mermaid/under the sea theme for the whole party.  We picked cool tones like blues, aquas, and purples for the party theme colors, and went looking around for different mermaid cake ideas on Pinterest.  None of them completely struck our fancy, so we ended up doing a hybrid of a few cake ideas we saw and made the cake our own.  Behold, I give you, the most spectacular mermaid treasure cake in the history of the world:

Mermaid Treasure Cake
First thing that happened was we baked two cakes in a round 8 or 9 in pan, enough to give it two layers. We added some blue and purple coloring to each pan to add to the mermaid color scheme.  I often will freeze the cakes after being completely cooled and removed from the pan and wrap in plastic wrap.  It's easier to work with cake when it is cool and frozen.

Unwrap the frozen cake and place on the board you want to serve it on. I tend to put some strips of wax paper under the four edges of the cake, to protect the serving board from getting frosting on it.

frozen cake layers are easier to handle with less crumbs
Add a layer of strawberry jam (or frosting) between the layers to help secure them together and stack the other half of the cake on top.  Because they are frozen it is easy to trim back any areas that might be lopsided, or off center at this time.

Stack the cakes together

Now that the cakes are stacked you want to get a Wilton large round tip and put a large amount of light aqua blue frosting in a pipping bag.  I have seen many cakes on pinterest that will put a line of dots vertically up the cake, then smooth half the dot over then add more dots. 

I wanted to do that same effect, only I wanted it to look like scales of a mermaid tail.  So I put a line of dots about an inch in diameter all around the very bottom of the cake. 

dot along the bottom of the cake for a mermaid scale effect
Then take a small round spatula knife and stick in near the middle of the dot, and press and pull up to streak the frosting in the area above it. I ended up trading the one shown below for a smaller round tipped spatula (looks the same, just smaller) that would fit inside the blue dot.

Do this all the way around until you come back to the first dot.

Next layer you want to start up a little bit, covering up some of the streak from the first layer, and and a new layer of dots, and pulling them up as well.

Continue each layer, more dots, more streaking up

After a while, you will see the "scales" on the mermaid tale take shape

At the top layer I placed the dots as high up the sides without going over the top.  Once at the top, I pulled the streak up to the top side of the cake.  Going all the way around, it will look unfinished, but we will cover that up.

Next, switching color and frosting size tipped (smaller round tip) put a ring of purple dots around the top of the cake.  To remove the little peaks that stick up, dip your finger in water and touch the top of each dot.  The moisture will push the tip in and make it look like a round ball.

  I wanted to make a treasure chest on the top of the mermaid cake, but I wanted to make it look like sand.  So pour 1/2 cup (to start with) of brown sugar onto the center of the cake.  

Be really careful and slowly with a fork pull the sugar towards the purple dot border.  You don't want the sugar to actually touch or stick to the dots, or fall over the side of the cake, as it will stick to the mermaid scales.

  Go slow here until you have full "sand" coverage.

After that, it is time to build the treasure chest made of chocolate.  I mean, if you are going to have a treasure chest, one made of chocolate would be extra fabulous, no?   Gather up a pile of regular Kit Kat bars and make sure you are working in a cool place, or chill the candy in the fridge, as it tend to melt and I found even leave finger prints in the chocolate if it's too warm while you are doing this next part. 

You will need two full Kit Kat bars for the box, plus one Kit Kat bar cut in half for the sides.  You will also need a full Kit Kat bar for the lid.  The bottom of this box is open and will sit in the "sand".  I took a sharp knife an chopped off the very ends of the bars that flair out a bit, so it made more of a square edge. This was only on the parts that would not be seen.

Melt a handful of chocolate chips in the microwave for 20 seconds at a time until you have liquid chocolate. This will be the glue you need to make a chocolate treasure box  Working quickly, paint a swab of liquid chocolate down one side, making sure the front of the words "kitKat" are right side up.  Hold in place for a few seconds, then prop up against something so the chocolate can dry.  

Two sides of the chocolate Kit Kat box
  Make a second version of this for the other side of the box, also prop to dry. 

I tried to get all the Kit Kat logos facing the same direction all the way around the box

Once these two pieces are firm and holding together, place more liquid chocolate in the two corners and place all the pieces together to form a box.  Again, let it dry completely.

A box.  A box of chocolates.  Mama always said....
Now place the box on the cake where you want it.  The "sand" will help hold it in place.

chocolate treasure box on mermaid tail cake
Next we need to fill it with "treasure".  I decided to put some "filler" material in the bottom of the chest, so I used some captain crunch type cereal to fill up half of the chest, then I added those fancy jewels to the top. Jewels were found at Oriental Trading Company in a 12 pack of Velvet bags for vacation bible school, I just removed the jewels from the bag and used for my treasureThis was way more economical than buying other fake jewels from amazon or other places on line, and bonus, they looked pretty real! I also added a fake black pearl necklace hanging off the side of added effect.

Next came the lid.  I took two sucker sticks (can buy in a pack of 25 at the craft store) and stuck them in the front of the treasure chest in the two front corners.

The lid of the chest consists of one full Kit Kat bar.  Get some more of that liquid chocolate, and "glue" the lid in place, securing it at the back of the chest while holding it propped up on the sucker sticks.  It will take about 30 seconds for the lid to set in place. 

Every treasure chest needs a lid - to protect from pirates of course
After that, sit back and enjoy your awesomeness

Chocolate treasure chest - B-E-A-Utiful!
 My middle child absolutely LOVED this cake.

There were many OOs and Ahs when the party guests saw the cake. I found these cool twirly candles at Walmart that reminded us of waves, or seaweed.

They looked really cool all lit up.

This was the inside of the cake, once we cut into it.

Let them eat cake!

All in all, it fit right in with our under the sea mermaid party and the girls really loved his cake.  

I am told the next morning, that in the middle of the night, some of the girls snuck into the kitchen and demolished the chocolate treasure chest, as there was only a pile of cereal left behind as evidence.. those tricky mermaids...

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