Nik Snacks

Bite it and write it. That's what I do.

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I don't remember the exact moment when kale got trendy and popular. I do remember kale being touted as a superfood. Kale was marketed in smoothies. Kale in baked goods. Kale was salted and roasted and marketed as a snack. Then came the pushback. Nobody really liked kale. And even worse, no one knew how to cook it.

But I do.




There are 3 main types of kale:

  • Curly
  • Dinosaur
  • Russian



I use curly kale in this recipe and it's the most easily recognizable. I also got it from Sungold Farm, whose owner, Natalie schooled me on kale many moons ago.

Dinosaur kale is the dark green one with the bumpy-looking exterior.
Russian kale is one that reminds me of oak leaves.It's light and delicate-looking, but is still rough and tumble like the other varieties.

I really like creamed spinach but I love creamed kale even more because of the hearty texture.
Most creamed kale recipes call for heavy cream, but it's expensive and I didn't have any, so cream cheese came to the rescue. It melts so nicely with the addition of butter and milk. Chopped onions and garlic meld into the cream while a splash of vinegar wakes everything up. I sincerely hope you enjoy this recipe.




Creamed Kale
Serves 2-3

4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 small onion, minced (about 1/2 cup)
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 ounces cream cheese
1/2 lb fresh kale, chopped, large stems removed (curly is preferred)
1/3 - 1/2 cup whole milk (or water, if you're out)
1-2 Tablespoons apple cider or champagne vinegar (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Heat oil and butter in a large sauté pan over medium low heat.
2. Add onions and garlic and cook for several minutes until onion is translucent and garlic is turning golden brown and very fragrant.
3. Add in chopped kale and toss carefully in the butter and oil. You may have to add this in two batches.
4. Cover pan and allow kale to wilt, tossing occasionally.
5. Add in cream cheese, break up with spatula and let melt into the pan. If it starts to burn turn down the heat.
6. Pour in milk and stir. Add more milk, if needed, for creaminess.
7. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle on vinegar, if using. Serve hot.


Have any leftovers? They taste great the next day or even 4 days later. Make a sandwich like I did with hot Italian sausage and yellow mustard on a baguette. It's good eatin'.




I'm completely obsessed with my Instant Pot pressure cooker (which does a far sight more than meets the eye).

I bought it for the low, low price of $50 (including shipping) on Amazon Prime Day last year and I haven't looked back. I use it for EVERYTHING: pasta, potatoes, hard-cooked eggs, rice, beans, oatmeal, making chicken stock, even cheesecake. Yeah. Cheesecake.


But the best parts about the Instant Pot are that anyone can use it and you can cook things in a fraction of the time, aounsupervised. I love that I can just put on the lid and take a nap or get some work done in my home office while the food is percolating away.

This recipe is no different. It's simple, yet tasty. The acid from the vinegar cuts through the fatty pieces like butter while the vegetables fall apart with the mere suggestion of a fork. I sincerely enjoyed this dish and I hope you do too.

Apple Cider Braised Chuck Roast
Yield: 3-4 servings

2 Tablespoons oil (not extra virgin olive oil)
1 (2 lb.) chuck roast, room temperature
Salt and ground black pepper, for seasoning
1 large onion, sliced
1 whole head of cabbage, cut in 2-inch pieces
1/2 cup apple juice
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1. Turn Instant Pot to sauté. Swirl a little oil into the pot. Season meat heavily with salt and pepper on all sides. Sear meat on all sides, until browned on all sides.

2. Add onion, cabbage, potatoes, apple juice and apple cider to the pot.

3. Press CANCEL on the Instant Pot. Cover and seal the pot. Manually set PRESSURE COOK for 45 minutes.

4. When the Instant Pot signals the cook session is completed, let natural release for 20 minutes. After that, manually release the remaining pressure.

5 Open lid carefully, shred meat with 2 forks or serve in chunks with sauce and vegetables.

Alternatively, preheat oven to 400 F, season and sear the chuck roast in a braising pot on top of the stove; Add vegetables, deglaze the contents of the pot with the apple juice and apple cider; Cover and place in the preheated oven to cook for 3 hours. Continue with step 5 of the recipe.



On 6:00 AM by Nikki @ NikSnacks in , , ,    No comments
I heard an urban legend about making a cheesecake in an Instant Pot



I laughed. 
I scoffed. 
I turned up my nose. And then I did a little research. 

I read an article from The Kitchn that described in horrible detail about how it all works. Science is a thing and it's wonderful to behold. Pressure cooking depends entire on moisture and I worried about the cake getting wet. There's an app for that.
I worried about the flavor. There's an app.
I worried about the appearance. There's an app.
And then I sucked it up and I tried it. 



It's lovely.

It has to sit covered overnight in the refrigerator, but it's worth the wait. 
It's light and fluffy when it emerges from the pot but overnight, the bubbles sink in and the texture of the cake becomes thick and dense. 12-24 hours later, you have a real, live cheesecake on your hands. And on your fork. In your mouth.



I topped mine with a sour cream/granuated sugar mix and then put canned cherry filling on top to hide the dips and creases on top, courtesy of the paper towel put in place to sop up the moisture during the pressure cook.

The largest pan that will fit in the Instant Pot is 7 inches, but I own a 5-inch springform pan, so that's wha I used and my measurements are for the same. You can find recipes for other sizes (6-inch, 7-inch, ramekins) but this size was perfect for 3 people after a good-sized dinner.

So go on. Get out of here! You have some cheesecake to make.

Instant Pot Cheesecake
Yield: 1 5-inch cheesecake, Serves 3-4 

INGREDIENTS

For the crust:
Cooking spray
3/4 cup cookie crumbs 
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted or oil

1 (8-ounce) package Philadelphia cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2T milk or water
1 large egg
2T all-purpose flour
1/2 t vanilla extract
1/8 t salt
For the sour cream topping:
1/4 cup sour cream
1 t granulated sugar


1. Coat a 5-inch-springform baking pan with cooking spray. Line the bottom with a parchment paper round. Pour 1 1/2 cups of water in the bottom of an Instant Pot and set a trivet with handles on top. Make sure they are up. Otherwise, fold a long piece of aluminum foil into a wide strip to use as a sling.


2. Place cookie crumbs in a bowl. Add melted butter or oil and stir until the crumbs are just moistened and press together easily. Transfer the crust crumbs to the prepared pan and use a shot glass to tightly press it into the bottom and sides of the pan.


3. In a food processor, add the cream cheese, sugar, cream, eggs, flour, vanilla, and salt. Pulse, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until smooth. Pour the filling into the prepared pan and smooth out the top with a spatula.


4. Cover the pan with a paper towel. Cover the paper towel with a piece of aluminum foil, carefully crimping the foil tightly around the edges of the pan. This is to prevent water from pooling on top of and ruining your cake. If you’re using a trivet with handles, place it in the bottom of the Instant Pot insert with the handles resting on the sides so the cake will be easy to remove when finished. Otherwise, use foil as a sling. Fold a 12-inch piece of foil lengthwise and place the sling under the pan and then place the pan in the pressure cooker.


5. Lock the lid into place and make sure the valve is set to seal. Use the manual setting to set the pressure cooker on HIGH pressure for 13 minutes. Natural release for 10 minutes. When the cook time is complete, let the pressure cooker naturally release pressure for 10 minutes, then do a quick release of the remaining pressure. Gently remove the pan from the pressure cooker and uncover. The cheesecake should be mostly set and should not jiggle. 
The top will look lumpy

6. . Stir together the sour cream and sugar in a small bowl. Spread onto the cheesecake and let cool in the pan for 1 hour.


7. Refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours. Refrigerate the cheesecake for 12 to 24 hours before removing from the pan and slicing to serve.




On 6:00 AM by Nikki @ NikSnacks in , , , , , , ,    No comments
This is one of those dishes that is easily thrown together on a busy weeknight. It's only a matter of chopping up a few ingredients, opening a can and shoving it in a pre-heated oven.

As a matter of fact, if you're a meal prepper, you can prepare the vegetables, season the chicken, throw it in a gallon-sized zip top bag and have it on reserve when you need it during the week.


As far as preparation goes, if you need to speed up your prep time, you don't even need to brown the chicken before placing it on the vegetables. You can place it on top, raw, and then proceed with the rest of the directions after that. It's a very forgiving recipe. As a matter of fact, the idea was born out of the fact that I was running short on time one evening and still wanted to cook a full dinner. The only thing I didn't make that night was an additional starch or bread to sop up the rich pan sauce this recipe makes..


So enjoy the simplicity of this dish. Your family and your tastebuds will thank you.




Mushroom Braised Chicken
Serves 4-6, Yield: 4 thighs, 4 legs

Ingredients

4 chicken leg quarters
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
3 Tablespoons oil
4 cups green cabbage, chopped
1 lb. white potatoes, sliced or quartered
1 can cream of mushroom soup (with garlic) mixed with 1 cup water or stock

DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper. In a large fry pan over medium-high heat, add 1 Tablespoon of the oil. Add the chicken and cook, turning once or twice, until golden brown on both sides, about 8-10 minutes total. Transfer the chicken to a plate to rest. Cover.

2. In a 9×13 baking dish, add the cabbage, the remaining 2 Tablespoons of oil and season with salt and pepper.
Add the sliced potatoes on top of the cabbage.

3. Return the chicken and any juices from the plate to the pan and pour the diluted cream of mushroom soup over the chicken. Braise the chicken for 65 minutes. Let it rest 10-15 minutes.

4. Divide the chicken among dinner plates, spoon the mushroom sauce, cabbage and potatoes over the chicken and serve. 


On 6:00 AM by Nikki @ NikSnacks in , , , , , , , ,    No comments


There are only TWO kinds of grits: good and bad. Let me tell you how to make some good ones.

Grits are a staple in the modern Southern kitchen. Made for breakfast (with butter, jam, jelly, cheese or sugar for garnish and flavorings) or for dinner (usually with shrimp or fried fish), ground corn never tasted so good.

The thing about cooking grits is that a little makes A LOT. It expands when it cooks and holds a lot of liquid in order to make them soft and palatable. The recipe below takes that fact into account.

Don't have grits in your pantry? Use cornmeal. Polenta is yellow cornmeal but ground in such a way that the grain produces a chewier finish. Stay away from the tubes of pre-cooked polenta and instant or quick cooking grits. White corn grits are usually smoother and silky when finished. And so are these. Enjoy.


Old Fashioned Southern Grits
Yield: 4 servings, 1/2 cup each

1 cup grits
1 cup milk
3 cups water

Directions

1. Boil 3 cups of salted water (3 tsp of salt is PLENTY)
2. Stir in 1 cup of grits (any kind--white, yellow, stone ground, but NOT INSTANT GRITS)
3. Add 1 cup milk (or cream, coconut milk, oat milk, etc.) Stir.
4. Lower heat to LOW. Cover. Let cook 20 min.
5. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Garnish with whatever.
Serves 4.


On 6:00 AM by Nikki @ NikSnacks in , , , , , ,    No comments




Currently part of my weekly meal ideas menu, hamburger steak is a part of one of my favorite, most memorable meals from my childhood.


Bites of the meaty, savory beef patty with the unctuous brown gravy and soft, silky onion slices is the ultimate comfort foods.


Next to hot, fluffy mashed potatoes and an unidentified green vegetable, this was the life.

I want to be as helpful to you as I canduring this economic and personal time of uncertainty. As a culinary professional who has been on both sides of the aisle, rich and poor, I will be providing food content to you here on Nik Snacks, in your inbox and on all social media channels.

Hamburger Steak Recipe with Gravy
Yield: 4 half-pound patties
2 pounds ground beef
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
2 cups onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup water or stock
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Instructions

1. Crumble the ground beef into a large bowl and sprinkle with the garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, and ground mustard. Blend well (with your hands or a fork)

2. Divide the mixture into 4 equal amounts (or more if you want smaller steaks) and form them into patties. Place your thumb in the center of eack patty and press down firmly, to make an indentation. As the patty cooks, it will even out and be flat.

3. Place a skillet (cast iron is best, but any will work) over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, place the patties in the skillet and allow them to cook, without touching them, 5 minutes.

3. Flip them over and cook for an additional 4 minutes. They should be a dark brown color. Remove the steaks from the pan and allow them to rest on paper towels.

4. Drain away all but about 4 Tablespoons of the grease from the pan. Put the pan back on the heat, add the sliced onions, sprinkle the all-purpose flour over the contents of the pan. Stir and cook about 3 minutes or longer, until the flour has browned and become a different color (ranging from beige to light brown)

5. Add water and stir well. If mixture is too thick, add more liquid to thin it out. Bring to boil, reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the Worchestershire sauce and the hamburger steaks back to the pan and cook until they are done to your liking or turn off the heat and serve. 


On 8:00 AM by Nikki @ NikSnacks in , , , , , ,    No comments
This pasta is a part of my attempt to be helpful in sharing what I, a professional culinarian, eat at home. 

Also: as a part of a personal effort to eat better and have mealtime structure in my life, I began creating weekly meal plan ideas for dinner. I think about what is in my pantry (freezer and fridge included) and what I want to make/should make with my findings. 


Every day for the past 2 months, I have been sharing my findings on Instagram. One, to keep myself accountable; And two, I believe that my followers think I cook and make "fancy" food all of the time. Yeah, I have truffle oil but I also have canned green beans and chunk light tuna on the shelf (sounds like the makings of a salad niçoise, gimme some potatoes!) 

I want to break down that third wall and misnomer. I sincerely enjoy sharing what I cook and eat for myself because I may not be a "celebrity" but I'm "just like us."

Lastly, I want to be as helpful to you as I can. As a culinary professional who has been on both sides of the aisle, rich and poor, I will be providing food content to you here on Nik Snacks, in your inbox and on all social media channels.

This pasta in tomato sauce takes less than 20 minutes from start to finish and you can complete other tasks or finish the meal while this cooks. It's simple, straightforward, but very filling. Enjoy.



I make all of my pasta in my Instant Pot these days.

To make the perfect pasta:

1. Put raw, uncooked pasta in the electric pressure cooker and pour a water/jarred tomato sauce mix over the mixture until just barely covered. Stir to combine.

(Alternatively, set your electric pressure cooker to SAUTE and brown ground beef or chicken until no pink remains and then proceed with step 1)

2. Look at the recommended cook time directions for the pasta. Set the electric cooker to PRESSURE COOK. Set the time--Cut the time listed in half and add ONE minute. Example, if the directions say 'boil 7-9 minutes', in the electric pressure cooker, set the time to 4-6 minutes. 

3. After the time elapses, do a quick release for al dente OR natural release for 5-7 minutes and then quick release to release the rest of the pressure.

4. Open the lid and add 2 Tablespoons of butter. Stir to combine for a silky, smooth sauce.

5. Garnish with cheese and cracked black pepper. Serve.