My Favorite Beef Stew Recipe - Adapted for use in the Instant Pot Cooker

When I first started making this recipe I used the recipe that was made to simmer forever on the stove, into one I put in the crock pot/slow cooker.  Last night I adapted it for my Cosori Instant Pot Cooker as well.  This is because when I decided to make the beef and vegetable stew for dinner that evening, it was because I had diced meat pieces I wanted to use up but they were in the deep freezer.  Obviously frozen solid.  For tender bites of beef they need to cook slow and long... which wasn't an an option.

And then I thought "I'll just make it in the Instant Pot!"

So I did.

Play with this recipe on some of the ingredients - mainly the vegetables.  I actually bought a peas/carrots/corn veggie mixture specifically to make this recipe because we are *usually* lower carb so we don't keep potatoes, corn or peas on hand.  But... it's cold. And winter. And gray outside.  And darnit, a hearty beef stew on a cold winter day is just... comforting!

I didn't put mushrooms in this time.  No reason.  Just didn't feel like it.  Sometimes I dice up cabbage for this which I love!  But I didn't have cabbage in the house this week so... again, like I said; play with the recipe if you wish.

Beef and Vegetable Stew

3 c cubed, peeled potatoes
4 medium carrots, sliced
1 medium onion, cubed
2 lb. steak or other beef, cubed or cut to about 1" pieces
2 T oil
3 T flour
2 beef bouillon cubes
2 c water
1/4 c white vinegar
1/4 c ketchup
1 T prepared horseradish (I don't buy this but I have mild horseradish cream by Kraft (?) in the squeeze bottle)
1 T prepared mustard
1 T sugar
1 c peas
1 c corn
1 c fresh sliced mushrooms

In the instant pot, place the oil and use the 'saute' menu option.  Add the beef and brown it. (I put mine in frozen, straight form the freezer and broke it apart as it browned and thawed.)

When the beef is mostly browned and has color, sprinkle on the flour and stir a bit.  Add the beef broth (or 2 beef bouillon cubes with 2 cups water) and seal the instant pot.  I set the pot to cook on the 'meat' button setting.  Then quick released the steam to open the lid; add the potatoes, carrots (if you are using fresh sliced, which are harder than packaged, frozen) and fresh chopped onions.

Either in a bowl OR just add it to the pot; stir in the vinegar, ketchup, horseradish cream (if you are using), mustard and sugar.  Cover, seal and cook on 'soup' or 'stew' setting.

Quick release, add the peas, corn, and mushrooms.  You can add another 1/2 cup water if you need/want to.  If you need to serve immediately, set it for a short cook time like 8 minutes.  If you don't need to serve right away, seal it and use the 'slow cook' button so it cooks like a crock pot/slow cooker until you need it.

I served with fresh baked homemade rolls.

You might also be interested in these products available through Amazon, related to this post.

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Salted Nut Chews (Salted Nut Bars, Salted Nut Roll Bars)

Although I've been making these for too many years to even count (or remember) I do know I've used different variations of the recipe based on what I felt like trying that day, what I had on hand, etc.  I have a hand written recipe card in my Christmas Cookie binder and also another I typed out years later, and even later still, scribbled some notes on the paper with other things I liked better. 

Originally my bottom crust was completely made from scratch but later, I used the 'crust' part of my sister-in-laws version, which used a yellow cake mix.  Although I don't love the taste of store bought cake mixes, I did love how quick and easy these came together when making it that way!

In the end I almost always opt for this version of the crust - although I still play around with the filling because the original recipe called for a 12 ounce bag of peanut butter chips, but you know how companies love to 'downsize' their products while raising the prices!  Sure enough, they later started to make the packages of peanut butter chips in 10 ounce sized.  That's when I started to use a scoop of real peanut butter in my filling (among other little things I tweak as I feel like it).

So here is a basic recipe using the cake mix crust because it's a great crust - but I'll publish my really old 'other' bottom crust version below as well. 

Salted Nut Chews

1 yellow cake mix - dry
1/3 c butter, soft
1 egg
3 c mini marshmallows
2/3 c corn syrup
1/4 c butter
2 t vanilla
1- 10 oz. package peanut butter chips
1/3 cup smooth peanut butter (I just use a big spooned scoop out of the jar but I'm guessing it's around 1/3 cup)
2 c Rice Krispies (generic brands are fine!)
2 c salted dry roasted peanuts

Combine the dry cake mix with the butter and egg in a mixing bowl.  Press into a lightly sprayed 9X13 inch pan.  Bake at 350 about 13-15 minutes - you don't want it to be too brown or dry around the edges.  Remove from the oven and sprinkle the 3 cups of marshmallows on top of the crust.  Place it back into the oven for a few minutes until the marshmallows start to puff up.  Then remove and let cool while you make the topping layer.

In a saucepan, place the corn syrup, butter, vanilla and peanut butter chips - cook over a medium to medium low heat until melted.  Add the scoop of peanut butter and stir smooth.  Add the peanuts and cereal.  Spoon the topping over the marshmallows. Refrigerate or freeze until needed.

Years ago, before I started to use a yellow cake mix for the crust, I used this for the base:

3/4 cup butter
2/3 c brown sugar
2 egg yolks
1 t vanilla
1 1/2 c flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/4 t baking soda

Beat the butter and sugar with the egg yolks and vanilla.  Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl and add to the butter/sugar mixture.  Mix until blended and crumbly.  Press into a 9X13" pan and bake approximately 12 minutes; top with the marshmallows and bake another 3 minutes.  Continue with the recipe as above.

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Homemade Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookies

I make these every year and have for so many years I don't even recall the first I made them.
I don't have a recipe wrote down anywhere as it's really just so simple, only has a couple ingredients and it's really just a quick 'taste' test to know if you like the amount of peppermint and that's about it.

The things I would mention that I've learned or tested through the past 20 years of making these would be this;
  • Good quality/good tasting chocolate.
  • Peppermint oil not a water based extract.
  • A scoop of shortening to thin out the chocolate a bit
  • Mix the chocolate chips for the best flavor
I've made these with almost every brand and kind of chocolate out there.  For cost effectiveness coupled with affordability and topped for the flavor - I primarily use Ghirardelli (which I find at Sam's Club but you can order online as well)

I mix milk chocolate with semi-sweet chocolate for the best flavor that our family prefers.
A spoonful of Crisco shortening will help your chocolate melt smooth and not be too thick, yet won't affect the drying and hardening of the chocolate.  For 'new' bakers out there - don't add water to thin your chocolate!  It will make it seize up.  You need to use oil based everything in working with melted chocolate.

Faux Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookies

Ritz Crackers
Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips and/or Milk Chocolate Chips
Peppermint Oil flavoring (more intense than extract)
A scoop of Crisco shortening

Amounts are completely up to you based on how many you want to make.

Start with the chocolate chips and either melt in the microwave, stirring often, or a double boiler method.
Stir in a spoonful or two of shortening.  I use about a tablespoon per 2 cups chips.  Give or take.
When melted, add your peppermint flavor.  Remember you want it to be a little strong, like Girl Scout Cookies are; but not too strong!  
Stir in about 1/4 t of peppermint oil to start. Add by drops until you get a strong, delicious taste you like. Stronger is better than weaker but don't trust your taste buds after the first taste or two, employ a 'helper' to dip a cracker and do a taste test.) I use LorAnn Peppermint Oil.

Work quickly so your chocolate doesn't set up while you are dipping, or keep it warming in a bowl or pan over another pan of hot water (double boiler style). You can get about 1 sleeve of crackers dipped with about 6-8 oz. chocolate chips.

Using a fork, dip the Ritz crackers one by one to cover in the melted minty chocolate coating and let the excess drip off before laying on parchment paper, foil or wax paper. Let harden or if you are in a rush, refrigerate to harden.

Ok... for those of you who want the chocolate wafers - I found this recipe although I don't make the chocolate wafer style.

1 package chocolate fudge cake mix
3 tablespoons shortening
1/2 cup cake flour
1 egg
3 T water
nonstick cooking spray

Combine the cookie ingredients in a large bowl, adding the water a little bit at a time until it forms a dough. Cover and chill for 1-2 hours. On a lightly floured surface, roll out a portion of the dough very thin (about 1/16 " thick). Cut out 1 1/2 inch wafers using a scalloped cookie or biscuit cutter. If you do not have one, use a juice glass, the lid of a spice jar or even a clean cutter from your kids play-doh set if they have one! Bake for about 10 minutes until crisp but don't let them burn. Let them cool completely and then dip the same way as stated above. If you make the chocolate wafers you'll need about 2 1/2 - 3 bags of semi-sweet chocolate chips to cover all the wafers.

Can be frozen for storage.

This is my second batch of the day - using the same bowl obviously so it's messy.  But, dipping chocolates IS messy.  One of the many reasons I hate dipping chocolate anything.

Freshly dipped.  Now let them set a couple hours and they will harden and be perfect!

Use a good quality peppermint oil - not a water based extract.  Water will make your chocolate seize up and get hard - you'll have to throw it out as you can't use seized chocolate for dipping!

I hate chocolate.
I hate dipping chocolate.
But I love my family.
And my family loves chocolate.

LorAnn Peppermint Oil
LorAnn Natural Flavoring Oils, Natural Peppermint Oil, 1 Ounce Bottle
Chocolate Chips


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Peppermint Meltaway Cookies with Crushed Candy Cane

The first batch are white on white with crushed peppermint candies

Peppermint Meltaways
1 c butter
1/2 c powdered sugar
1/2 c cornstarch
1/2 t peppermint extract
1 1/2 c flour
1 1/2 c powdered sugar
2 T butter
1/4 t peppermint extract
1 - 2 T milk
peppermint candies or candy canes, crushed

Combine butter and powdered sugar in a bowl and beat smooth.  Add the rest of the ingredients, beat well.  You can either divide the dough into fourths and roll each into a log about 1 inch in diameter, wrap in plastic wrap and chill, or place all the dough to chill for about 30 - 60 minutes.  If you chose to roll the dough into logs, slice each log into rounds, about 1/8" thick.  If you chose to chill the dough whole, shape rounded teaspoonfuls of dough into 1 inch balls.  Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake at 350 approximately 12-14 minutes.  Remove to cool completely.  Make glaze by combining the ingredients except the candy.  Use only enough milk to make it spreading consistency.  While wet, sprinkle with crushed candies.  Let harden.

The second batch were tinted red with white glaze and peppermint candies

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Keebler Bars - Angel Bars - Kit Kat Bars (everyone knows them by different names)

I've posted what we call "Angel Bars" and have made regularly since about 1999 or 2000 - but what I'm not sure I've mentioned is that it's not the recipe I originally made.  I made these the first time using butterscotch chips in them as well, and I didn't care for the 'fake' flavor of butterscotch chips (but I'm picky like that), so I ended up tweaking the recipe until it was the one we have loved and used for about 15 years now.  However, I realize many people may like the original version that includes the butterscotch chips.  So this morning, here is the original version of our 'Angel Bars' that some people think tastes similar to a Kit Kat.  I don't.  But these are a FAVORITE bar in our family.

Update to add:  for 2018 I made a huge double batch of these only to have my husband eat two ROWS of bars the first night!  It's a good thing I start to do my holiday baking 'early' because this allows me to make a 3rd batch for the cookie trays before Christmas giving.

Angel Bars - also known as Keebler Bars (or some call Homemade Kit Kat Bars)

80 club crackers
1 cup butter
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1/2 cup butterscotch morsels

Line an ungreased 9X13-inch baking pan with foil, leaving an extension of foil on either end. Line the foil with 1 layer of club crackers, breaking to fit if necessary.

In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar, milk and sugar. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and spread half of butter mixture evenly over crackers. Place another single layer of crackers evenly over butter mixture, cutting to fit if necessary. Spread remaining butter mixture evenly over crackers. Top evenly with remaining crackers.

In a small microwavable dish or in a saucepan, combine peanut butter, chocolate morsels, and butterscotch morsels. Melt in the microwave or over medium-low heat, stirring constantly. Spread evenly over top of crackers. Cover, and chill for at least 1 hour. Lift foil overhang and remove bars from pan. Cut into bars. Store in the refrigerator.

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A Cookie A Day Until Christmas: Homemade Chocolate Truffles

I should probably post some new photos as I make these truffles every single Christmas (and a few times more during the year) - if you've gotten this recipe from me before in previous posts you recognize the photos.  These are so incredibly easy and so delicious!  In fact, so quick and so easy both my girls have made these themselves since they were early teens.  These in the photos were actually made by my 17 year old at the time - she needed very little help from Mom and managed to pull off some beautiful dessert truffles, which we packaged using (recycling) a "chocolate candies" box from Harry & David we had at the house but I'll link to some from Amazon at the bottom of this post too.

You can change the flavor of your truffles by using other extracts/oils to whatever taste you prefer.

Almond Truffles

1/2 c evaporated milk
1/4 c sugar
2 cups milk chocolate chips
1/2 t almond extract
1 c finely chopped toasted almonds
OR 1 cup melted chocolate almond bark for dipping (or extra chocolate chips)
and melted white almond bark for drizzling

Combine evaporated milk and sugar in small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a full boil. Boil 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in chips and almond extract, stirring gently until smooth. Chill mixture about 45 minutes until it can easily be shaped into balls. Roll into the crushed nuts or dip in melted chocolate. Drizzle or sprinkle with nuts if desired. Chill until ready to serve.

If you need boxes to 'give' your gift of candies, here are a few I randomly saw listed at Amazon;

4 Pc Truffle Boxes Red (24 Pack)
Make n Mold 1/4 lb. Candy Box - White - 4 pack
Set of 10 - 1/2 Pound Kraft Tan Candy Wedding Party Favor Boxes 5.5 Inch x 2.75 Inch x 1.75 Inch


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