Well, my family survived the most hectic, beautiful couple of days of the year! We all loved the gifts but exclaimed that the giver(s) shouldn’t have spent so much on us. We all ate too much, but the food was too good not to! And all of the adults swore they would start a diet on Dec. 26.

There was no need for the six grandkids to make any such declaration. They never stopped moving for a minute. Who knew a couple of 4-year-olds could generate enough energy to power a whole house?

I managed to catch “A Christmas Story” in its entirety once during its annual 24- hour marathon on all three Turner stations. That movie recalls my youth like it as yesterday. All in all it was a grand day.

Now it’s on to the next hurdle, New Year’s Eve and enough football on New Year’s Day to satisfy the biggest fanatics. And don’t forget the most beautiful parade of them all, the Tournament of Roses Parade. It seems the day has something for everyone!

I believe that in recent weeks there have been enough suggestions for holiday foods that it is not necessary to run more of them today. So I’m moving on to Instant Pot recipes and tips.

My daughter was introduced to the Instant Pot when she visited an uncle in Tucson, Ariz., last fall. She loves it but was not quite as enamored of the recipes that accompanied it.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Instant Pot, Jillee, from onegoodthingbyjillee.com describes it as: “a programmable electric pressure cooker that can be used to cook all sorts of different foods. Like other pressure cookers, the lid locks in place while in use, so that pressure builds up inside the pot. In the pressurized environment, the food is subjected to hotter temperatures, which causes it to cook faster than traditional cooking methods. For instance, you can cook dry beans in about a half hour or so in an Instant Pot, as opposed to the hours it would take to cook them on your stovetop! The pressurized steam inside the pot also forces liquid into the food during the cooking process, making it moist and tender.”

As to its versatility, Jillee says “the pot itself has pre-programmed buttons for making soups, meats, beans, poultry, rice, grains, porridge, and even yogurt.”

A couple of weeks ago, Laurie J. sent me a website that provided Instant Pot recipes, and I am running it again today, for those of you who might have missed it: www.everydaycheapskate.com/foodandrecipes/bestinstantpot-tips-recipes-accessories.

In my most recent search for Instant Pot recipes, an e-mail from Pinterest came to my rescue: www.pinterest.com/pin/225883737544625702.

Following are a few recipes I found at that site. They run the gamut from simple to intermediate to more complicated. Remember, when learning something new, take baby steps. Don’t try to jump right into elegant but very complicated recipes.

The first recipe is a quick-to-make creamed corn. It refers to a butter and flour mixture as a “slurry,” but I think this is something of a misnomer. According to my trusty “Food Lover’s Companion (and we all know what a valuable resource that has been to me over the years),” a slurry is “a thin paste of water and flour which is stirred into hot soups, stews and sauces as a thickener.” Once added, slurry should be “cooked and stirred for several minutes” to allow the flour to lose its raw taste.

What is actually being added to the creamed corn is a roux, which while also a thickener, differs from a slurry in that a roux is a mixture containing fat (such as butter or pan drippings) and flour.

The white bean chili and red beans and rice recipes are perennial favorites, sped up by not having to soak the beans ahead of time. Either would make a hearty, filling football day meal.

We have an anonymous reader who needs “scratch recipes for lemon cookies, bread, scones, muffins and such in which the flavor does not bake out.”

She says “The lemon bakes out of the recipes I have and they have almost no lemon flavor.” I suggested fresh lemon juice rather than bottled as a possibility, but a little zest would also go a long way toward improving the flavor.

Also in the lemony vein, Sue Bialecki is seeking a “childhood memory” — lemon chiffon pie made with a Jell-O mix. The mix has since been discontinued, so if you have a lemon chiffon pie recipe, please share it with us.

Like many others of us, Al Swift remembers the potato skins served at Michael’s Cerise, many years ago. He would like a recipe so he can make the skins at home.

Remember, the Exchange is running twice a month now, on the second and fourth Sundays each month so I’ll be back Jan. 14. And don’t forget the slight format change — you can share your favorite recipes any time, with or without a request

Instant Pot Creamed Corn

  • 24 ounces frozen corn
  • 8 ounces heavy cream
  • 8 ounces milk
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Pour frozen corn, cream and milk into Instant Pot. Choose the “sauté” function; bring mixture to a boil. Melt butter in microwave; add flour. Flour and butter will form a thick slurry (Actually, a slurry is water and flour – this is a roux, a mixture of fat and flour). Add flour and butter mixture to Instant Pot; season with salt and pepper. Stir and allow to thicken for a minute or two. Place lid on pot; set to “manual” for 1 minute. When time is up, open quick release valve and remove lid. Sprinkle parmesan over corn; let sit about 5 minutes to thicken a bit more. Serve, and enjoy! (onegoodthingbyjillee.com)

Instant Pot White Bean and Chicken Chili

  • 1.3 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1½ cups dry white northern beans
  • 1 (4-ounce) can diced green chilies, undrained
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Rinse and drain beans (no need to soak beforehand). Add all ingredients except chicken thighs to pot. Cook on manual high pressure 28 minute; shut it off and use quick release to depressurize. Add chicken thighs; give inside of lid a quick rinse under cold tap water to help with resealing, then replace lid and lock it. Set for 13 minutes on manual high pressure. When time is up, use quick release; remove chicken and shred using a couple of forks. Return chicken to pot; use the Keep Warm function to keep soup warm until dinnertime, or serve immediately. (onegoodthingbyjillee.com)

Instant Pot Red Beans and Rice

  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1 bell pepper diced
  • 3 celery stalks diced
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 pound dry red kidney beans
  • 1 teaspoon salt or more to taste
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon white pepper (optional)
  • 1 tsp hot sauce
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme or ½ tsp dried thyme
  • 2 leaves bay
  • 7 cups water
  • 1 pound chicken andouille sausage cut into thin slices
  • 10 cups cooked rice

Add all ingredients except sausage and rice to Instant Pot. Lock lid on; set to manual high pressure for 28 minutes. After 28 minutes, use quick release method (release valve). When Instant Pot is fully depressurized pin will fal, and you can remove lid. Run lid under cold water; set aside. This will help Instant Pot lid to re-seal. Add chicken andouille sausage; replace lid and lock it. Set manual setting at 15 minutes high pressure; allow to release pressure naturally this time (do not use pressure release valve, just let it sit until pin drops). Might take round 25 minutes to naturally release. Bean mixture can sit, covered, a few minutes to allow liquid to thicken. Liquids will continue to thicken, but to thicken right away, either mash lightly with potato masher or puree some of the mixture in blender. To thin, add a splash of stock or water. Serve over rice. This recipe freezes well (without the rice). This recipe was written specifically for un-soaked beans. If you soak beans ahead of time, you will need to reduce liquids and cook time. (apinchofhealthy.com)

Liven up your Thursday mornings by tuning in to Coulee Region Cooks from 10 to 11 a.m. on WIZM-AM radio, 1410 on the dial. Spend an hour with Mike Hayes and a different guest(s) each week in his studio kitchen, sharing recipes and cooking tips, along with a generous serving of fun.

Send requests, recipes and/or cooking tips and techniques to Alice P. Clark at: Reader Exchange, c/o La Crosse Tribune, 401 N. Third St., La Crosse, Wis. 54601; e-mail: readerexchange@lacrossetribune.com; or send a fax to 608.782.9723, attn: Reader Exchange.

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