Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The easiest butternut squash soup ever with the Instant Pot electric pressure cooker

Butternut squash soup is one of the things I love eating but normally I find kind of a pain to make. You have to cut up (which is hard!) and cook the squash, and them puree it. It's kind of a hassle.

However, using my instant pot electric pressure cooker to cook the squash makes the process so much easier! I can make it on a weeknight now! It's healthy, delicious and now easy.
~2lb butternut squash
3/4 cup heavy cream
32 oz low sodium chicken broth, divided
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon

6 qt instant pot electric pressure cooker
Immersion blender (I have this one) or you can use a food processor, but an immersion blender will make it easier

Cut your squash into fourths, so it will fit in your pressure cooker and cook more easily. Remove the seeds. Pour one cup of water into your pressure cooker pot and place your trivet in the bottom, place squash on top. Close top and close vent. Pressure cook on manual high for 12 minutes. When cooking time is completed quick release the pressure.
Squash ready for cooking
Remove the squash from the pot and dump out the water. Allow the squash to cool slightly, until you can handle it. Pour about half the chicken broth, the cream and all of the seasonings into the pressure cooker pot and set the cooker to the saute, less (ie the lower temp, on my IP it's called "less").
Cooked squash
Scoop the squash out of the peel and return it to the pot. Using your immersion blender, puree the squash in the pot, adding additional chicken stock until it reaches desired consistency. Depending on the exact size of your squash, you may not need the entire container. Continue blending until the soup is smooth. Makes 4-6 entree sized servings.

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Friday, January 12, 2018

What size instant pot should you buy?

So, you've decided to buy an instant pot but you are unsure of what size to get. This is a common question when considering to buy an electric pressure cooker. I am here to help you!

There are 3 sizes of current models being sold 3qt, 6qt and 8qt. There was previously a 5qt size available and you might still find it if you buy a second hand one. I haven't seen it sold online since summer 2017 and even then I think it was retailers clearing out their stocks.

3 quart Duo mini
Only the duo model is sold in the mini size. The name "mini" should be your clue here, this is the smallest size. In my opinion, this size is best for making side dishes, or perhaps cooking for 1 person (even then I'd recommend the 6qt). If you already have a large IP and you love it, you might want to add a mini to your arsenal.
3 quart duo mini

6 quart, Ultra, Duo, Duo plus or Lux
This is the size I personally own (family size of 2 adults) and I would recommend this size for most smaller households (1-3 people). For small households you can cook with plenty of leftovers and batch cook in this size. This size can also work for larger households (4-6 people) if you prefer not to have many leftovers and don't batch cook.

Other benefits of the 6 quart:
  • Other pans fit more easily inside your instant pot (I recommend this pan) for pot-in-pot (PIP) recipes
  • Most recipes are written for this size
  • Large enough for a whole chicken (4-5lb, possibly larger) and other large foods
I would actually also recommend this size for those only cooking for 1 person because even though it will take up more room, there will be times when you want to cook more or do PIP which would be difficult in the mini. 

The 8 quart is best for cooking in large batches or if you have a larger family (4+ people). Keep in mind that the base of the IP is fairly large and this bad boy will take up a fair amount of counter space. I do personally know one couple without kids who bought the 8 quart because they wanted to be able to batch cook and have the extra space for holiday gatherings. 

Bonus: 6 quart GEM 

The GEM is not a pressure cooker. I repeat, this model of “instant pot” is not a pressure cooker. It is made by the same company and has confused many hopeful pressure cookers who saw the brand name and thought it would pressure cook. The GEM is a “multi-cooker” and can be used to slow cook, roast, stew and sear/sauté. 

If you like recipes where you sear the meat and then slow cook the GEM would be great for that because you can do both with the same appliance but it’s not a pressure cooker.

Are you a newbie? Tell us in the comments what your concerns are!

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Sunday, January 7, 2018

Southern Brunswick stew in the Instant Pot electric pressure cooker

I was first introduced to this hearty southern staple when I first went to North Carolina with DH, before we ever moved here. It was hearty and filling and perfect for winter. It also seemed the perfect dish for the Instant Pot! The IP really shines when making soups and stews.

This dish relies on two pressure cook cycles, first to cook the meat and then to cook the stew. For this reason it's not a 10 minute soup but still much quick in your instant pot that the traditional process.
~1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs (I would err on the side of less or it can be quite meaty)
~1 pound beef stew meat (in cubes, I would err on the side of less or it can be quite meaty)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 tsp chopped garlic (I use this kind in the jar)
1/2 a small onion, diced
1 small bell pepper,diced (green is fine, I used yellow because that's what I had)
1 bay leaf
14.5oz  of chicken broth
14.5oz can of fire roasted tomatoes
12oz package of frozen corn
12oz package of frozen lima beans
3 tablespoons Corn starch

Pour 1 cup of water into the bottom of your instant pot and put your trivet in the pot. Place your chicken thighs and stew meat on the of the trivet. Season the meat with the salt and pepper. Put your IP on manual pressure cook, high for 8 minutes. Make sure the valve is closed. Quick release (QPR) the pressure. Remove the meat from your pot leaving the liquid at the bottom. Set the IP on saute, high to keep it warm for the next cycle.
Meat on the trivet ready to cook
Put the onions and garlic in the pot and allow to cook a few minutes. Then add the bay leaf, chicken broth, tomatoes, corn and lima beans ingredients to the pot. While your onions and garlic are cooking shred your chicken and stew meat. After it's shredded, add your meat to the pot and start the second pressure cooking cycle. Put the IP on manual, high for 10 minutes. Make sure your valve is closed. During this cooking cycle, you can dice the onion and pepper. When the cooking time is finished, allow the pressure to naturally release for 2-3 minutes and then you can QPR the remaining pressure.
Everything in the pot ready to do the second cook cycle
If the stew is not thick enough, take 1 cup of broth from the pot and whisk with 3 tablespoons of cornstarch and add it to the pot. Allow to simmer on saute mode, high until it reaches desired thickness.
Cooked! Isn't it nice that my bay leaf came to the top? Easy to find!
Makes approximately 6 servings, total prep and cook time is an hour and 15 minutes. It's not the fastest meal you can make in your IP but most of the time is for it to cook, very little active prep time.

If you liked this stew, check out this round up of other soups you can make in your IP.

Time to eat!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

5 soup recipes for the instant pot

It's been cold outside and we have been cooking up soup in our 6 quart Instant Pot electric pressure cooker like crazy. The IP really shines when making soup. It has all-day simmer taste in less than half an hour.

Ready to warm up? Here are 10 great soup recipes you can make in your instant pot!

1. Zuppa Toscana
A la the popular Olive Garden dish. The first time I made this in the IP was the first time I'd ever had it and it was amazing. Here is the link for the version from This Old Gal and here is my version. Her version is closer to the Olive Garden's. I tweaked mine a little to make it easier to make (ie using pancetta cubes cooked right in the pot) and because I don't like kale very much. It's delicious and my husband loved it.
Sausage, potatoes and pancetta - how can you not like zuppa toscana?

2. Chicken Noodle Soup
A winter classic made simple in the instant pot because who has all day to simmer soup when they have a cold? Here is a great recipe from Cook Fast Eat Well.

3. Creamy potato Soup
This recipe is a riff on something I've been making in my crock pot for years. I make it with pancetta, bacon or ham based on what I have on hand. It's hearty and will warm you right up. Here is my recipe.

4. Stuffed Pepper Soup
I made this recipe to kick off our low carb diet for the new year. It was tasty and it's healthy!

Stuffed pepper soup
5. Butternut squash soup
Cut a butternut squash in half and cook it in your instant pot, then you can puree your squash and put it back in the pot to simmer a little (on saute function), following your preferred recipe. Don't have a favorite? Try mine! The IP makes it much easier to make this delicious soup.

I'm hungry just looking at these great soups!

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Monday, January 1, 2018

Low carb stuffed pepper soup for the Instant Pot electric pressure cooker!

It's a new year and we are on the low carb train for the month of January. One of my favorite dishes when eating low carb is a version of stuffed peppers. Instead of rice and meat stuffing you stuff the peppers with meat and black beans to keep the carb count low. It's delicious but it takes forever to make the filling and then bake the peppers until they are tender. So, since it's winter and I am lazy, I have adapted this as a soup for my electric pressure cooker.

I made this in my 6-quart instant pot duo electric pressure cooker.

We're doing a looser, modified low carb diet. Being a little less strict will help us to stay on it longer while still eliminating most sugar and hopefully dropping a few pounds. If you are doing a stricter low carb diet, you might want to modify this to reduce the total number of carbs, thus I have flagged the 3 biggest offenders in the list below - black beans, quinoa and canned tomatoes. These numbers are what is added to the total recipe and not per serving.

This recipe takes approximately 40 minutes for prep, pressurizing and cook time.

20 oz lean ground turkey or ground beef
1 packet chili seasoning
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 large green peppers, diced
2 large red peppers, diced
1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes (adds 14 net carbs)
1 can black beans (adds 38 net carbs)
1 cup quinoa (I used tri-color Trader Joe's quinoa; adds 17 net carbs)
2 cans beef broth
extra water to cover contents

Meat ready to brown
Turn your instant pot to saute on normal heat and add your meat, chili seasoning and garlic. My meat was extra lean, so I also used some olive oil in the bottom of  pot. As your meat is browning, you will need to stir it occasionally, you can dice your peppers.

Diced red pepper
After the meat is browned, add your peppers, tomatoes, black beans and quinoa to the pot.

Everything but the broth.
Pour in two cans of beef broth and add extra water until the contents of the pot is covered.
All ingredients added and covered with broth.
In the 6 qt IP, it will be almost to the fill line. I gave it a little stir to mix everything up and then set the pot to manual pressure cook high for 14 minutes. It will take about 10-15 minutes to come to pressure because the pot is really full. When it's ready, do a natural pressure release for 5 minutes (to reduce the chance the soup will spray out) and then quick pressure release.

Now it's time to eat!

6 Tips for newbie instant pot users

I've written before about how much I love my Instant Pot with suggestions for what size to get and where I think the IP excels but I can understand why the IP would be overwhelming. Well, I'm here to help you get that bad boy out of the box!

1. Read the manual
I will say that I never, never, never read the manual for any appliance but one of the best suggestions I received when I got my instant pot was to look at the manual. It is a very different style of cooking and it will take some getting used to but trust me you will get a feel for how long things take to cook just like over time you learned how long you should put things in the microwave.

So, take a browse of the manual, do your water test and get cooking! You got this.

2. Your pot has a built in lid holder!
This is kind of neat huh? And it just might keep you from knocking your lid off the counter and breaking the plastic :-)

Nifty, huh?

3. Your sealing ring might get funky
Personally, I have not had this problem but I see this asked about online constantly. Your sealing ring can absorb odors and get a little funky. I store my lid upside down on my pot and I think this helps to keep it aired out. If your sealing ring gets smelly you can clean it by putting 1-2 cups of white vinegar in your pot and putting it on the steam setting for 2 minutes, then allow it to air dry. If that doesn't work, you can order new sealing rings.

They're pretty inexpensive, so it's not a bad idea to replace them occasionally regardless of smell issues.

4. What accessories do you need?
You can get a lot out of your IP without buying a bunch of accessories but depending on what you want to cook in your pot, some accessories might be useful. The first one I bought was a silicone lid for storing leftovers right in my pot (I bought this one, it's not IP brand but works well). I wrote a whole post on what different accessories can be used for and how useful I find them to be if you are wondering what you should get.

A cover for your pot to go in the fridge can be handy!

5. What is NPR, QPR and PIP?
The IP has an almost cult following and you'll soon see why but what in the heck are these people talking about? These are the most common acronyms you'll see online and in recipes. They mean:
NPR = Natural Pressure Release: this means after the cooking time ends, that you let the pressure release naturally for a certain amount of time, in other words you wait and do nothing. The pressure will slowly come down and your food will continue to cook somewhat.
QPR = Quick Pressure Release: this means that you open the valve and the let the pressure come out as quickly as possible. It usually takes 2-3 minutes for my pot to release all of its pressure in a quick release. Some recipes will call for a certain amount of NPR followed by a QPR and some you can QPR as soon as they're done cooking.
PIP = Pot in Pot: this is a cooking method to cook two things in your IP at the same time without them getting mixed together. I talk a little more about this in my post on accessories, including what kinds of pans/pots can be used.

6. The steam could damage your cabinets

Many people have a problem with where to put their new IP in a kitchen with limited counter space because if you use it a lot the constant steam releasing can damage your cabinets over time. You might think you could put it on the stove and turn your vent on but the internet is full of tales of woe where people have accidentally melted the bottom of their new IP when they put it on the stove because they accidentally turned it on.

I honestly don't think I have ever accidentally turned on my stove but if you do this proceed with caution. I warned you! Another solution is to get a 3 inch plastic elbow joint and place it over your vent to direct the steam away from your cabinets. If you're lucky there is an obvious home for your new appliance that isn't on your stove or under your cabinets.
This could save your cabinets!

Now, do you feel ready to get cooking? Check out my post on easy newbie recipes and get cooking!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Most useful instant pot accessories

If you are a new instant pot owner, and you've fallen in love with your IP you might be wondering which accessories you need to get the most out of your new appliance!

I have the instant pot 6-quart duo - if you have a different size (such as a 3-quart mini or an 8-quart), take that into consideration when looking for accessories.

You can easily buy a bunch of accessories so I suggest living with your new IP for a little while before diving it and thinking about your want to use your pot. I've sorted accessories into what I deem to be useful and some others which are popular but might depend on how you want to use your pot.

Most useful accessories

1. Silicone pot lid
If I make a big batch of something, I like to be able to store it directly in my IP. So the first thing I bought for my new baby was a pot lid. I did not splurge for the IP brand lid because I'm thrifty. I bought this one and it has been great so far.

2. Interior pan
You'll probably want a small pan that can fit (make sure to get the 7in x 3in size!) inside your pot, which is at max 7 inches in diameter. It needs to be able to have space around it and it needs to be safe for the IP so metal or silicone most likely. I do not recommend using anything glass or ceramic, though I know some people use mason jars in their pots. I have personally never tried it, proceed with caution. 
7in fat dadio pan

Having a pan to do "pot-in-pot" meals (called PIP in instant pot lingo) can really open up your meal options because you can cook one part of a meal below, such as potatoes and one on top in the other pan, such as meatloaf at the same time.

You could also use this same pan to make baked goods like cheesecake, but if you want your cheesecake to be pretty, you'll need a separate spring-form pan. I personally, use the same one because I already have a 10 in spring-form for full-sized cheesecakes

3. Steamer basket
Similar to having an interior pan, a steamer basket can allow you to cook some veggies at the same time as whatever you are making below, such as your chicken main dish. This accessory opens up more cooking options. I think this is a little less useful than an interior pan because you could probably use the same interior pan for most veggies but they're not quite steamed...

These 3 items are what I would consider to be the most helpful accessories for your new instant pot! There are some other popular accessories, which are useful, depending on what you plan on making but less universally so.

4. clear glass lid
This lid can only be used with the instant pot in slow cooker or saute mode. You cannot use it when pressure cooking! If you plan on using this feature, you'll like one of these.

5. Egg bite mold
The copycat starbucks sous vide egg bites have a cult following! If you want to make them or the lava cakes you will need a mold like this one. Amazon can hardly keep these bad boys in stock at times, if you need to search you want to look for "silicon baby food mold" and find one in a round shape with wells that are approximately 2oz.

Baby food container or instant pot accessory? Same. Same.

6. Extra sealing rings
Some people complain that their sealing ring gets a smell after some time. After months of use, my ring hasn't had any odor. I store my lid upside down in the pot and I think this helps but if your ring gets funky, you can soak it in vinegar. If that doesn't work sufficiently, you can order replacements from IP

7. Silicone sling
Again, the usefulness of this accessory will depend on how you use your IP. If you do a lot of PIP meals, having a sling like this to lift the hot interior pan out will be really handy. If you only do PIP occasionally, it will be less useful. If you don't buy a silicone one, you can DIY a foil one each time you need it. 

This post contains some affiliate links. If you make a purchase with these links the blog will receive a small commission, thank you for your support.