Weekend Update – The Instant Pot Chicken Chili Edition

Posted by on Feb 6, 2016 in Fun, Weekend Update | 6 comments

Weekend Update

The Instant Pot Chicken Chili Edition

Several weeks ago I got an Instant Pot electric pressure cooker. I never had a classic stovetop pressure cooker because frankly, I was scared of them. This thing however, while appearing rather complicated is actually pretty darn easy to use and I am learning to use it and becoming quite a fan. I decided when I first got it that I was going to make a place for it to live on my kitchen counter so that it would always be handy. I knew that the more accessible it was the more I’d use it.
Instant Pot
The model I have is the Instant Pot IP-DUO60

7-in-1 Multi-Functional Cooker: Pressure cooker, Slow cooker, Rice Cooker/Porridge Maker, Steamer, Sauté/Browning, Yogurt Maker & Warmer

I have barely scratched the surface of the functions but I definitely plan to learn about and try those I haven’t used yet.

My favorite source of information, recipes and support for new users of electric pressure cookers such as this is Pressure Cooking Today. I have used several of the methods and recipes on that site with great success. Another valuable resource is the Instant Pot Community Facebook Group. It’s a group with thousands of members so there is a lot of repetition and clutter in the timeline but the search function within the group works quite well. Between the Facebook group and the Pressure Cooking Today website I have been able to find the answer to any question I’ve had since I first opened my Instant Pot.

Granted, with some dishes there really isn’t much of a time saving, but with others it’s amazing how quickly a meal can come together.

We made BBQ pork ribs in the Instant Pot, then finished them off on the grill while I rinsed out the pot and steamed some fresh broccoli to absolute perfection. BBQ Ribs dinner in an hour from start to serve was pretty impressive.

The thing I like about using an electric pressure cooker is that even if it’s not necessarily faster than cooking something traditionally on the stovetop there is usually a point where I’ve locked the lid and left the pot to do its thing and I could go do something else instead of standing at the stove minding a pot.

This White Chicken Chili is a dish that is quickly becoming a weekend lunch favorite of ours. It’s another of those one hour from start to serve dishes and that includes having to cook the cut up chicken. If I had precooked chicken in the fridge or freezer is would be even faster.

This particular recipe is from Pressure Cooking Today and I highly recommend it. The only modification I make is to reduce the cumin because we’re not big cumin fans at our house. Once the chili is done it’s really more of what I would call a soup consistency. The leftovers reheat quite well in the microwave. We like to garnish it with a dollop of sour cream or greek yogurt and chunks of avocado.

Quick White Chicken Chili

Yield: 6 – 8 servings
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
3 cups cooked, diced or shredded chicken
2 cans (14 ounce) chicken broth
1 jar (16 ounce) salsa verde
1 can (4 ounces) diced green chilies
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cans (15.5 ounce) cannellini beans or other white bean, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoon cornstarch
3 tablespoon cold water
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Select Sauté and add the oil to the pressure cooker pot. When oil is hot, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.

2. Add chicken, chicken broth, salsa verde, green chilies, cumin, red pepper flakes and beans to the pressure cooking pot. Lock lid in place, select High Pressure, 5 minutes cook time and press start.

3. When timer beeps, turn off pressure cooker, wait 5 minutes, then do a quick pressure release to release any remaining pressure.

4. In a small bowl, dissolve cornstarch in 3 tablespoons water. Select Simmer and add cornstarch mixture to the pot stirring constantly until chili thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste.

5. Served topped with sour cream, diced avocado, tortilla chips, and shredded cheese.

Weekend Cooking, hosted by Beth Fish Reads is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page. For more information, see the welcome post

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Drinking in America by Susan Cheever

Posted by on Feb 4, 2016 in 2016, 3.5 stars, Book Review | 1 comment

Drinking in America by Susan Cheever

Drinking in America: Our Secret History by Susan Cheever

Genre: Nonfiction
Publisher: Twelve
Format: Ebook
Publication Date: 2015
Pages: 243
Source: Purchased

The Book:
From the publisher:

In DRINKING IN AMERICA, bestselling author Susan Cheever chronicles our national love affair with liquor, taking a long, thoughtful look at the way alcohol has changed our nation’s history. This is the often-overlooked story of how alcohol has shaped American events and the American character from the seventeenth to the twentieth century.

Seen through the lens of alcoholism, American history takes on a vibrancy and a tragedy missing from many earlier accounts. From the drunkenness of the Pilgrims to Prohibition hijinks, drinking has always been a cherished American custom: a way to celebrate and a way to grieve and a way to take the edge off. At many pivotal points in our history-the illegal Mayflower landing at Cape Cod, the enslavement of African Americans, the McCarthy witch hunts, and the Kennedy assassination, to name only a few-alcohol has acted as a catalyst.

Some nations drink more than we do, some drink less, but no other nation has been the drunkest in the world as America was in the 1830s only to outlaw drinking entirely a hundred years later. Both a lively history and an unflinching cultural investigation, DRINKING IN AMERICA unveils the volatile ambivalence within one nation’s tumultuous affair with alcohol.

My Thoughts:
I picked this one up because it came highly recommended by Beth Fish Reads. It was an interesting look at a selection of significant times in American History where alcohol was a factor in events. Cheever goes mostly chronologically with a few asides that go back and forth in time.

Beginning with the landing of the Mayflower and the decision to stay where they were instead of going to where they had been granted permission to establish a home. The main reason? They were short of beer.

From there she takes a look at the founding fathers and the importance of taverns in communities.

The first government building didn’t go up in Boston until 1658. Before that court was held in rooms at John Turner’s Tavern and George Monck’s Blue Anchor. “Upon all the new settlements the Spaniards make, the first thing they do is build a church,” wrote the British captain Thomas Walduck in 1708. “The first thing the Dutch do upon a new colony is to build them a fort, but the first thing the English do, be it in the most remote part of the world, or amongst the most barbarous Indians, is to set up a tavern or drinking house.”33 Taverns were also places where rumors began and ended, where neighbors got to know each other, and where communities found an identity. If the taverns and the drinking fed the colonists’ desire for independence from powers on the other side of the world, it was no wonder the desire grew rapidly.

There was plenty of interesting information in this book. Cheever looks at the changing viewpoints regarding alcohol and its necessity or its evilness. She takes a look at some of the temperance movements but I was surprised that there was actually not much about the prohibition era.

I was also surprised to learn a few things along the way. I had not known about President Nixon’s drinking issues. Nor was I aware of the speculation that some of President Kennedy’s protection service members were speculated to have had impaired reaction time in Dallas due to the fact that they’d been out late the night before and possibly drinking.

This book is very much a series of snapshots of America through the years and the role alcohol played. I thought it was a fun and interesting read.
3.5 stars Rating 3.5/5

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February Photo a Day Challenges

Posted by on Feb 1, 2016 in Fun, photos | 1 comment

February Photo a Day Challenges

I have found a way to make daily photo prompts work well for me.

No single photo a day prompt list fully works for me. I choose to save several lists and choose one prompt each day from among those lists. I’m happy to say that I love this approach and it works great for me. I highly recommend it.

Here is a sample of the photo a day lists I’ll be using for February:
(click on the images to see larger versions)

Another source of prompts is The Bethadilly Challenge which doesn’t post an image of the month’s prompts but the list is posted on the site for easy copying and saving wherever works best for you

If committing to a month at a time feels like too much there are other weekly and daily options available on Instagram

The SunnyPicChallenge posts a theme each week for the weekdays and has theme free weekends

I have also discovered another source of inspiration for those days when nothing on the lists inspires me. There are several Instagram accounts that feature a new theme every week. I follow these accounts and every once in a while they save me when I just don’t like any of the other prompts. These are all worth following on Instagram.

As you can tell, I am a huge fan of using prompts for daily photos because it helps make a personal photo journal and also makes me look for inspiration throughout my daily life. It helps me to notice and appreciate the little moments and things every day.

I’ve been doing this since March of 2012 so it’s been over three years of daily photo memories.

Follow my Daily Photos on Instagram

Here’s how the whole month turned out. (I use an app called Collect to do the month as a whole. It’s also got a way to backup my daily photos to dropbox in their own folder.

January Photo a Day

My January Photo a Day

These are the most liked of my January Photo a Day photos:

If you’re not doing a Photo a Day challenge I hope you’ll consider it because it’s a fun way to have a photo journal. If you are, great! Keep up with it. You won’t be sorry. I highly recommend the pick from many prompts each day approach.

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Weekend Update – The January 2016 Reading Wrap Up Edition

Posted by on Jan 31, 2016 in Blogging/Reading, Monthly Reading Wrap Up, Weekend Update | 3 comments

Weekend Update

January 2016 Reading Wrap-Up

Monthly Wrap-Up

After a few pathetic months in terms of reading I’m beginning to feel like my long lost reading mojo just might be making an appearance. I had a pretty good month of reading in January

Comics and Graphic novels
Chew Vol. 2: International Flavor by John Layman
Hawkeye Vol. 4: Rio Bravo by Matt Fraction

The Infernals by John Connolly
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Illustrated Edition by J.K. Rowling with art by Jim Kay
The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling (I’m not sure I’d call this a novel but I’m also not sure what else I’d call it so I’m putting it here)
Sunset Express by Robert Crais

Drinking in America by Susan Cheeer (Review coming this week)

Dry Bones by Craig Johnson narrated by George Guidall



Read My Own Damn Books
#ReadMyOwnDamnBooks Update

I have publicly committed to reading the books I already own this year. For my purposes this includes books in all formats that I owned as of January 1, 2016. This means print books on my shelves, ebooks that are in my ebook files, and audiobooks that I have already purchased.

I did OK this month – I’ve still got a stack of library books on my desk and I’ve put myself on a self imposed Library Time Out until I finish the ones I already have checked out. Despite that I still managed to pull a few books off my To Be Read shelves and ebook and audiobook files. The books I already owned that I read this month are

  1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Illustrated Edition
  2. The Tales of Beedle the Bard
  3. Sunset Express
  4. Drinking in America
  5. Dry Bones

5 of my own books out of 8 is a pretty good ratio as far as I’m concerned


Hope you had a great reading month in January and are having a great weeekend!

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Hawkeye Vol. 4: Rio Bravo by Matt Fraction

Posted by on Jan 29, 2016 in 2016, 3.5 stars, Comics, Matt Fraction | 0 comments

Hawkeye Vol. 4: Rio Bravo by Matt Fraction

Hawkeye Vol. 4: Rio Bravo by Matt Fraction with art by Francesco Francavilla, David Aja, and Chris Eliopoulos
Genre: Superhero Comics
Format: Comics Collected Trade Paperback
Series: #4 in the Hawkeye series
Publisher: Marvel
Publication Date: 2015
Pages: 160
Source: Library

The Book:
This volume 4 is a compilation of issues 12-13, 15, 17, 19 and 21-22 of the comic series.
From the back cover:

Reeling from recent events, even Hawkeye wants to know what his new status quo is. Who’s with him? Who’s against him? Who’s trying to kill him and why? And just when Clint’s rock bottom couldn’t arrive fast enough, his brother shows up. After a lifetime of bad decisions, Clint and Barney Barton realize that they’ll have to save one another — if they don’t kill each other first. But when Clown and the Tracksuit Draculas lay siege to their building, round one doesn’t go well. Deafened and bloodied, will the Bartons make easy pickings for the Tracksuits? Ever seen Rio Bravo? The brothers Barton double down in a new kind of shoot ’em up! Dont’ miss it, bro.

My Thoughts:
This is the final volume of Matt Fraction’s interpretation of Hawkeye. He’s done a great job with the Clint Barton character and this series has been a whole lot of fun. I don’t read much superhero comics but I have really enjoyed Hawkeye.

The artwork is wonderful and all three of illustrators have their own style yet it all flows nicely. I particularly liked the issue in which much of the dialog is in sign language. Even with only a rudimentary knowledge I was able to follow the story just fine thanks to the work of David Aja.

This volume isn’t going to make much sense unless you’ve read the previous volumes but if you haven’t, you should. This was a well done wrap up of an interesting and entertaining series.

3.5 stars Rating 3.5/5

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Sunset Express by Robert Crais

Posted by on Jan 28, 2016 in 2016, 3.5 stars, Book Review, Robert Crais | 2 comments

Sunset Express by Robert Crais

Sunset Express by Robert Crais

Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Hyperion
Format: Ebook
Series: #6 in the Elvis Cole series
Publication Date: 2014 Hachette Book Group (originally published 1996)
Pages: 253
Source: Purchased

The Book:
From the publisher:

Prominent restaurateur Teddy Martin is facing charges in his wife’s brutal murder. But he’s not going down without spending a bundle of cash on his defense. So his hotshot attorney hires P.I. Elvis Cole to find proof that Detective Angela Rossi tampered with the evidence. Rossi needs a way back to the fast track after falling hard during an internal investigation five years ago. But Cole needs to know if she’s desperate enough to falsify the case against Martin in order to secure her own position. As Cole and his partner Joe Pike work their way through a tangle of witnesses and an even greater tangle of media, they begin to suspect that it’s not the police who are behind the setup.

My Thoughts:
It’s been too long since I last read an Elvis Cole book. This is a fun series. Elvis is an LA based private detective. His partner, Joe Pike is awesome and scary in a fun way. The main mystery is about who killed the wife of a well-known businessman. The high priced defense team wants to claim the detective planted evidence. When Elvis tells them she’s an honest cop, they claim to be OK with that but we all know they’ll do whatever it takes to clear their client.

At the same time the recent new love in Elvis’s life is visiting from Louisiana. Obviously that’s going to get complicated too.

It’s a fun ride and a series both The Hubster and I enjoy reading.

The only trouble with reading a book published in 1996 is that certain things date the story. I could imagine the story taking place today until something would crop up to remind me it wasn’t. First it was Elvis picking up someone at the airport and going to the gate to meet them. I really didn’t even notice the lack of cell phones and widespread computer use but when they navigated to a destination using the Thomas Guide maps that Joe Pike keeps in his car that was noticeable. Those things sometimes took me out of the story momentarily but not enough to detract from enjoying it.

3.5 stars Rating 3.5/5

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