Recently I scored a few set of chicken bones at the local Asian market. I’ve been making broth for different dishes using these chicken bones. I love using the IP to make chicken stock. It’s so easy, effortless and efficient. I can turn 2-3 lbs of chicken bones ($2) into over 20 cups of chicken stock. It’s a great way to save money!
Today I made Wonton Noodle Soup using the IP chicken stock. Typically Wonton Noodle Soup is made with pork stock but using chicken was just as good. The broth felt lighter and healthier than using pork.
This has to be the most excited Budget Friendly Family Dinner that I want to share with you. Similar to the last 3 ideas this one is also quick and not so expensive to prepare. It can be done easily on a weeknight with little prepping as well.
Menu #4 – This is Vietnamese comfort food as its best: Caramelized Pork Belly with Quail Eggs in the Instant Pot, Stir-fried Snow Pea Leaves with Garlic, and Opo Squash with Shrimp Soup. For the Snow Pea Leaves, I typically season using sea salt and mushroom seasoning (for 1 lbs of snow peas, 1/2 to 1 tsp of sea salt, and 1-2 tbsp of mushroom seasoning).
I hope you will enjoy this combo as much as my family did!
Introducing another quick Budget Friendly Family Dinner. This Menu #3 has a very authentic Vietnamese flavor. Stuffed bitter melon soup is somewhat an acquired taste due to the fact that well… it’s bitter. But once you are used to it this dish can be quite addictive. Bitter melon has tons of health benefits including high in Vitamin C. It can also help reduce blood sugar. Cooking bitter melon in the IP takes no time at all, about 7 minutes high pressure seems to be good. I prefer the texture of pork paste instead of just ground pork. You can find pork paste in the frozen section of your Asian stores or check out a local Vietnamese Deli that sells Vietnamese Ham and such. They usually carry pork paste as well. In Orlando, I can get a pound of fresh pork paste for $5.00.
What goes well with stuffed bitter melon soup is Dau Hu Ram or Caramelized Tofu. Growing up with a vegetarian grandma in Vietnam I ate Dau Hu Ram very often. It was almost a stable dish in our family. Not only it’s good with rice but also in sandwiches. Pair with daikon/carrot, some slices of cucumbers and you’ll have a delicious vegetarian sandwich (Banh Mi Chay)!
I’ve cooked using the IP for about 2 years now but I have not yet attempted one pot pasta until recently. This has to be the easiest and tastiest thing you could make using the Instant Pot. My kids love Spaghetti Meatballs and they love this one pot recipe even more. My Logan, the world pickiest eater, gave me a thumbs-up and asked if he could have it again after school today. Well of course, dude!
I shopped by Aldi yesterday so all ingredients in this recipe can be found there. The garlic bread from Aldi was quite good. I used my Philips Air Fryer to quickly toast it up: 390 F for about 5 minutes. No need to pre-heat the large oven!
Please note this recipe is for 6-8. I made extra for us to pack to school/work the next day.
The other night I was able to whip up dinner in less than 30 minutes (with some minor prep). The featured dish was Vietnamese Caramelized Shrimp which can be very addictive. It was a little salty, a little sweet that had my son eating his rice non-stop. To compliment this dish I made a light and healthy soup with dried shrimps and Napa cabbage. I also used the IP to perfectly steam some broccoli.
3-quart IP: cooked 4 cups of rice using the ceramic inner pot. Ratio is 1 cup of rice to 1 cup of water (always use regular cup), select Rice function.
6-quart IP: steamed 1 lbs of broccoli on Low Pressure, 0 minutes, with 1 cup of water and QR. (I found that it’s best to steam broccoli in the 6-quart versus the 8. The 6-quart has less power which won’t overcook the broccoli.)
I think 1 of the daily struggles we all have is what to make for dinner! With a crazy job and/or multiple children to care for sometime that is something we don’t think of until much later in the day. And if you are like me picking up carryout on the way home or pizza delivery might be the best option sometime. Personally it’s a win for me if once or twice a week I can cook a Vietnamese Family Dinner (a.k.a. Cơm Gia Đình) for my boys. Home-cooked meals are not only healthier but can save so much money compare to eating out. It is possible with some planning ahead of time.
Tonight with the help of 3 Instant Pots I was able to whip up this meal in about 1 hour.
The cost for EVERYTHING was less than $10! The best part was everyone ate so well (including the pickiest eater in the world, my son, Logan). The boys loved the sauce from the chicken roti mixed in with rice and each ate a good bowl of cauliflower soup. We dined al fresco on our lanai since the weather was so nice this evening. That dinosaur table cloth got the boys excited about dinner 😊. I hope these ideas and recipes will help you prepare your Family Dinner this week (or next!).
Our local Asian market had Thai Bananas on sale for $0.79/lb last week. What a deal! I couldn’t resist so we got some. Thai Bananas (aka chuối sứ ) are widely used in Vietnam for different desserts such as fried bananas and Banana with Coconut Milk Pudding. Thai Bananas are firmer and can endure heat without falling apart like regular bananas. In this pot of Chè chuối my bananas weren’t as ripe as I wanted. Ideally the skin should be almost black. My craving hit hard as usual so I couldn’t wait a few more days.
Sweetness level is up to you. We like it lightly sweeten so I found 1 cup of sugar to be sufficient, you may like it sweeter so add more sugar in the end if needed. If you can’t find Vanilla Sugar packets please substitute with Vanilla Extract. I highly recommend to use Savoy Coconut Cream if you can find them. I ran out so I had to use coconut milk, it was good but could be better with the cream. And it’s okay NOT to have Pandan Leaves. It creates a pleasant aroma but not a required ingredient.
Pandan Sticky Rice is a popular breakfast item in Vietnam. I remember growing up eating this sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves on my way to school. I do like adding mung bean for some protein but it’s totally optional. This is a simple version using Pandan Paste for flavor and coloring. The long version of this would to blend and extract Pandan juice from the leaves and use that juice to cook the sweet rice or soak the rice in it. I’m also using the steaming method for this version and therefore the sweet rice needs to be soaked for a few hours.
I hope to soon post an un-soaked version using the pot-in-pot cooking method in the Instant Pot.
Beside Phở Bò (Beef Pho), Bo Kho (Beef Stew) is another Vietnamese dish that I believe the IP is great for! Beef shank can take quite some time to soften when cooking on the stove top. I always dreaded making it before and it was a dish that my Mother-in-law would only cook for special occasions or holidays because it just takes too long to make. But now we can have Bo Kho any day or any night of the week since it only takes a fraction of the time!
A few notes:
Beef shank (Bap Bo) is best for Vietnamese beef stew. The texture is good! You could add or replace with flank but shank is my meat of choice for beef stew.
I like to use the Quoc Viet soup base for Bo Kho. I have not found a better substitute. If you wish you omit the soup base, use salt/fish sauce, sugar… etc to season it. I don’t have measurements for those.
We love Honeycomb Tripe in our Bo Kho. You don’t have to add it. It can be replaced with more beef shank or carrots.
Culantro (ngo gai) goes really well with Bo Kho. Add them with basil directly to your bowl to enhance the flavor.
Serve Bo Kho with rice noodles, egg noodles or baguette. The choice is yours!
I love snacking on roasted almonds. Almonds contain a lot of healthy fats and protein in addition to fiber. I like having it at work for a morning snack. Just a handful of almonds is sufficient to keep my belly happy to lunch.
Before I had to ask my Mom to roast it for me on the stove top. She would put a layer of salt on the pan then add the almonds on top. The salt is to control the heat to prevent the almonds from burning too quickly. Mom had to stand by the stove constantly stirring for a good 10 to 15 minutes to roast the almonds. Recently I experimented with roasting in the Air Fryer. Because why not? I do use my Air Fryer to roast peanuts so this should work as well. And indeed it worked like a charm!
Set cook time to about 5 minutes. (Please note cook time might vary base on the size of your Air Fryer and brand. Check often initially to prevent over roasting!)
Remove from Air Fryer and pour into a bowl. Allow almonds to cool down completely. You’ll hear crackling/popping sounds which is normal. Don’t attempt to eat while it’s not, the texture will be soft/chewy.
Once they have cooled down you can enjoy immediately. Roasted almonds can be stored in your favorite air tight jars ,containers or zip lock bags. It makes a perfect snack for your kids at school too!
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