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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

If you can't stand the heat, then get out of the kitchen!

One of the few challenges I actually KNEW I was going to be facing in this house was the fact that only the bedrooms are air conditioned. The living areas are dependent on ocean breezes and ceiling fans to keep it cool. So obviously cooking dinner is bit of a challenge because I want to prepare food without heating up the house unduly. Today I tried two new experiments in meal preparation and I feel like I was *mostly* successful. I tried making meatloaf in the pressure cooker and I tried making "oven roasted" rosemary potatoes in the microwave.

For the meatloaf recipe I read a lot of "pressure cooker meatloaf" recipes and sort of distilled their wisdom down into my own take on it. I made a meat loaf recipe, adding to 1 pound of ground beef 1/2 C of slow cook oatmeal moistened with several tablespoons of milk (keeps things moist), I added salt and pepper to taste, 1/2 of a large onion finely diced, about 1/2 TB of dried Italian seasonings, 2 eggs lightly beaten, and some worcestershire sauce. I mixed this all up and placed it into a plastic container somewhat smaller in circumference than my pressure cooker and then I placed it all into the freezer uncovered for 15 minutes. Meanwhile I helped my 3rd grader with her math homework and prepped the potatoes by scrubbing them clean and cutting them into approximately 1" cubes. When the timer went off I popped the now firmed up meatloaf into my pressure cooker and set it on the "browning" level and crisped the bottom of the meatloaf. While it was browning I brushed the top of the meat loaf with a mixture of ketchup and worcestershire sauce. I added a 1/2 C or so of water to the bottom of the cooker, topped it with the lid and set it to high pressure for 15 minutes. Well, after a few minutes it clicked off and I realized I had not added enough water. I let the pan come back down to pressure naturally (the meat will keep cooking during this stage) and then I added another 1/2 C of water mixed with worcestershire sauce for seasoning, popped the lid back on and cooked it for another 6 minutes.

While waiting for the meatloaf to cook I made preparations for the microwave oven potatoes. I have to admit I don't really cook much in my microwave, I use it to reheat things of course or make water for tea or melt butter or defrost meat, but actual cooking? Not so much. I was intrigued by the idea of using it to as it does not heat up the kitchen and it actually uses a lot less energy than cooking on a stove or in an oven. I smashed a clove of garlic and placed it into a glass bowl that was about 8 inches across. I added a few teaspoons of Smart Balance spread (maybe a tablespoon) because that is what I had on hand, you can use butter or olive oil I am sure. Then I added some salt and microwaved it for about 45 seconds, next I tossed in and mixed up the chopped potatoes (about 3-4 medium sized potatoes) and crushed some dried rosemary and tossed that in as well. Then I covered the potatoes with a microwave safe splatter guard and let them cook on high for 15 minutes. Now microwave times and powers will vary, so keep a CLOSE eye on your food when you try this, but it was totally worth the little extra worry, the potatoes come out great. You could smell the rosemary and they spuds had very good texture, a few of them even got a little brown around the edges! I quickly used the microwave to steam some cut up broccoli (official vegetable of the Dinner 365 Family) and we were ready to eat. (The kids also had a side of applesauce, "Because Mom if you have a dinner plate with 4 sections all 4 sections need some food in them!")

Anyhow, I made dinner; I stayed cool and comfortable and everything was ready very quickly, so a total WIN for us tonight.

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