Friday, January 14, 2011

Pressure Cooker Pinto Beans

I am ashamed of how long it has been since my last post.  My one New year's resolution - post more often.  You would think I could come up with a better resolution, or least a few more, but we all know I need to take baby steps.  So in an effort to start the year off right (yes I know it has been a new year for almost two weeks now - sshh!)  I thought I would tell you about my new electric pressure cooker and some of the wonderful things that can be done in it.  I love this machine!  It has made making dinner after a long day at work so much easier, and it doesn't heat up the kitchen so using it in the summer will be a breeze. Oh! and you can even make dessert in it! Yippee!

I have the Cuisinart 6 quart electric pressure cooker from Costco (thanks to a tip from my wonderful friend Carol).  If purchased in the warehouse it is $69.99 which is the lowest price I have seen on this cooker.  Some of this machine's features are:
  • Digital thermostat, 99-minute timer and LED countdown display
  • Programmed temperature settings: low and high pressure, browning, simmer, sauté and automatic keep warm
  • Non-Stick Cooking pot
  • Stainless Steel trivet
  • Cool-touch side handles
  • Dishwasher safe cooking pot and trivet

If you choose to purchase this machine, there is something you should be aware of.  Do NOT follow the instructions when it comes to placement of the pressure control valve.  The first time I tried to use it it would not build up pressure.  Now mind you I have used a stove top pressure cooker for years and have never had a problem (other than it is kind of a pain to put the lid on and it takes some experience learning to keep the pressure at a certain point) but I couldn't for the life of me get it to work properly.  I read the instructions a second and third time and still.....nothing!  I then called Carol and asked her. Thankfully she already had this model and had seen a demonstration of it being used.  She told me not to worry about lining up the dot on the valve control to the dot on the lid but to turn the valve control until I find the lowest point and that should take care of it. She had a problem with things burning when she followed the instructions but once she figured this little trick out all has been fine since.  At this point I even asked my 20 year old son to read the instructions and see if I was missing something.  Obviously I was desperate!  Finally I figured out that it actually needs to be on backwards (from what the picture in the manual shows) I was it worked great.

I have called Cuisinart and pointed this out to them.  The woman was very nice and said that she would let them know and that the change most likely will be made to the manual available online. I recommend making a small batch of rice first in order to be sure you are able to find the best way to place your valve release.  If you have trouble give them a call, they are very helpful.  Once you have it all figured out you will love your pressure too.

I have make several things in the cooker now but believe it or not the pinto beans seem to be the most popular.  The nice thing about this is that there is no soaking and rinsing and they are done in just over an hour from beginning to end.  Plus they are healthy!  Something that people with "real" resolutions might be looking for.  I served these with chicken tacos (filling also make in the pressure cooker - recipe to come) and Mexican rice.

Pinto Beans

2 Cups (1 lb) dry pinto beans
8 Cups water
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1-1/2 tsp. dried Mexican oregano (any dried oregano will be fine, Mexican is a little earthier)
1-2 pinches cayenne chili powder
2 Knorr Cilantro cubes or 2 tsp. dried cilantro or 2 T. fresh chopped cilantro
2 Knorr Chipotle Chili cubes or 2 tsp. dry chipotle chili powder or 2 canned chipotle chili crushed
Salt to taste ( I used about 1/2 tsp)

Rinse beans (do not soak them) to remove any dirt or other particles.  Set pressure cooker to high pressure.  Add the beans, water, onion, garlic powder, oregano and cayenne chili powder to the cooking pot.  Lock lid into place and set timer for 35 minutes of pressure (it will take about 10 or 15 minutes to build up the pressure then begin counting down the time).  Once the cooker has signaled that the cooking has completed allow the pressure to release naturally, this will take about 20 minutes.  Once the pressure has released open the lid carefully.  Keeping the cooker on "keep warm" setting sprinkle in the cilantro and chipotle chili.  If using the cubes just pinch the cubes and they will crumble quickly allowing you to to add it to the liquid easily.  Also, if you are using the cubes do not add any salt until you have stirred all the cubes in and tasted the liquid (the cubes contain some salt).  Add salt to taste.  Replace the lid, locking it in place is not necessary.  Allow to set for about 20 minutes in order for the beans to absorb some of the new flavors.

If you would like to freeze the cooked beans, place them in a freezer bag with enough liquid to just cover the beans, push out most of the air and seal bag.  Frozen beans can be stored in the freezer for 3 months.

Note:  The Knorr cilantro and chipotle chili cubes are great to have on hand to add to soups, meats and more.  I found them in the Hispanic food section of my local Walmart.  Carol looked for them at her Walmart (about 10 miles from me) but they did not carry them.  If you have a Latin food market near you , you may want to check there also. They can also be ordered online by following the link in the ingredients list or ---->click here the cilantro and ----> here for the chipotle