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. The recommended items won't necessarily fit.

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 2 or 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...

4. Extra pan instert
If you start using your instant pot every day, you'll want to get an extra pan insert. I often have mine either storing something in the fridge or in the dishwasher and realize it's not available when I go to cook something new. Having an extra can easily solve this problem.

These 4 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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

8. 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. 

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Thursday, December 7, 2017

Best newbie recipes for the instant pot

While I really love my instant pot (IP) it was a little overwhelming when I first got it. It is so weird not to be able to see my food cooking! I'm used to taking a peak to see how it looks while it's cooking!

If you're new to the IP or thinking about buying one (the holiday sales are here!) you can read all about why I love mine here. If you already have yours but aren't sure what to do, check out my suggestions for easy recipes for new IP owners!

1. Basic pulled pork
This was quickest and easiest pulled pork I've every made. The IP really shines when cooking meat that is normally prepared "low and slow."

Put a 4lb pork butt or shoulder on top of your trivet, pour on a cup of water and a cup of barbecue sauce (I use Sweet Baby Ray's Honey BBQ) and set the IP on manual, high pressure for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Natural pressure release (NPR) for 10-20 minutes and then quick release (QR). Overall cook and prep time is less than 2 hours, quite a bit less.

2. Butternut squash
Much easier and faster than roasting it in the oven. It's a game changer. Directions are here.

3. Baked potatoes
I love baked potatoes (especially to take to work for lunch) but they take a really long time in the oven. I ain't got time for that. Now I make them in my instant pot in half an hour. Here is a recipe I like from Aunt Bees Recipes. If your potatoes are really big, you might need to add a couple of extra minutes. The first time I did this I had really big potatoes and they were a little under-done. Like cooking in the oven or on the stove, you'll get a feel for that an know when to add 1-2 extra minutes over time.

4. Chicken black bean rice burrito bowls
This is my go-to instant pot whole meal. I love it and it's somewhat healthy, until I cover it in sour cream. Then it's delicious. Here is the recipe from Cook Fast Eat Well. I made this every other week when I first got my IP. It makes a great dinner for 2 with leftovers for another 2 meals for each of us.

5. Mac and cheese
I love making mac and cheese in the IP, I might never buy boxed mac again. I started with this recipe from Dad Cooks Dinner but I even found his to be more complicated than necessary. I don't add the butter, mustard or hot pepper sauce and I use whatever cheese mix I have on hand, usually about 50% cheddar. Sometimes I toss in a few drops of liquid smoke when mixing in the cheese to give a smokier flavor. If I'm being fancy I will toast the bread crumbs on top but a lot of times I will skip that too.

Still a little unsure of where to start? Check out my 6 tips for new IP owners and the most useful accessories to go with your new IP!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Frittata with almond milk! And Paleo friendly.

We recently had a birthday celebration for my boss. Normally we all go out for lunch to celebrate someone's birthday (small office!) but he is always on a strict diet, I think he lives on Whole30 full-time. I'm exaggerating, but only slightly.

So he didn't want to go to a restaurant because he wouldn't be able to eat anything. But we felt bad to celebrate everyone else's birthday and not his. We did a little recon to see what exactly he was eating at the time and it was a "flexible" paleo - in other words paleo, unless he was cheating.

Of course, we didn't want to make him cheat so we wanted to keep the food paleo-friendly. I volunteered to make a frittata which is an Italian dish that is basically a quiche with no crust. To make it paleo friendly, you use almond milk instead of milk or cream.

It also makes it generally healthier. If you're into that kind of thing. Sometimes I am and I'm sometimes I'm not.

You also cannot put cheese in it if you want it to be paleo (I'd suggest 3/4 cup of shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese).

Coconut oil (for a paleo pan grease)
5-6 eggs
1/2 cup almond milk (suggest unsweetened, plain)
3 links of Italian sausage (sweet or hot based on your preference)
1 cup chopped broccoli florets
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 TB trader joe's 21 seasoning salute (this is my favorite for eggs! but you can also use garlic, onion powder, salt and pepper)


Remove Italian Sausage from casings and brown with bell pepper for 5-7 minutes. Add broccoli and cook an additional 2-3 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9in pie plate using coconut oil (or other grease if you aren't making it paleo). Put veggies and sausage in the pie plate, season with 21 seasoning salute or you preferred egg seasoning. Beat eggs and almond milk together in a mixing bowl. Pour egg mixture in pie plate and lightly mix with sausage and veggies. The sausage and veggies will mostly remain on the bottom but you want egg mixed in between the gaps. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until firm. It might take up to 35 minutes.

Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures! Here is an image to Pin!

This post contains some affiliate links to demonstrate the products used. If you purchase from this link I will receive a small commission.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Zuppa Toscana in the instant pot!

As someone who doesn't frequent Olive Garden I had never really heard of their zuppa toscana. When I started looking for Instant Pot recipes, I was seeing rave reviews of it all over the place so I thought I'd try it for myself!

I made a variation of the recipe from this old gal, and it's amazing! Now I want to go to Olive Garden to try theirs and see how mine compares!

I made a few alterations of the recipe I started with of course, I have to make it my own!

First, I love pancetta and I often find it easier to cook with than bacon because it already comes cut up into little cubes. I buy it in 4oz packages at Aldi for a little over $2. Especially since the original recipe only called for 4 strips of bacon, I used pancetta instead, I didn't want most of a package of bacon laying around. Or you know, in my stomach.

I also just cooked the pancetta with the sausage and left it in because, laziness. I really did not see any reason to take it out and then put it back on top, except maybe it makes a nicer photo op!

The meat and potatoes in the pot!
The other big switch was to use spinach instead of kale. This is an easy swap. I don't like kale very much so I usually will sub spinach for kale. I also don't like onions so I used onion powder. These are just personal preferences.

The finished product!
I will definitely be making this soup again, it was so delicious! I had planned to make a big batch to have on hand for the work week but that didn't really work out because we ate so much of it there was barely any left! whoops!

To make it my way you will do as follows:
Turn your instant pot or other electric pressure cooker on saute normal heat (ie not high or low) and pour a small amount of olive oil in the bottom. Allow to heat for 1-2 minutes and add your garlic sauteing for 2-3 minutes. Add the sausage and pancetta to the pot and brown the meat. When the meat is fully cooked (5-7 minutes) turn the pot off and allow to cool before draining the grease (keep the sausage and pancetta in the pot).

Add the potatoes and chicken stock, a little pepper and onion powder (according to your preference) to the pot and set the pressure cooker to manual and set for 5 minutes. After the cook time finishes allow a 10 minute natural pressure release and then you can release the remaining pressure with quick release (I actually let mine NPR 15 minutes because I was busy, and it still turned out fine). Add the spinach and cream. Stir to combine and allow the spinach to wilt before serving.

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Friday, October 27, 2017

Potato Pancetta soup in the instant pot

This was my first time winging it for the instant pot! I felt brave. It was delicious.

It was loosely based on a crockpot potato soup I've been making for years but now adjusted for my instant pot!

I took this photo before putting cheese on top!

1-2 TB of olive oil
1/2 tsp of chopped garlic (I use the jar kind, like this)
8 oz of pancetta (2 packages)
5-6 russet potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (you can use another kind but you might need more if they are smaller)
1 quart of chicken broth
1/2 head of broccoli chopped (could omit if you don't like it, I added it to sneak in some veggies)
1/4 tsp of celery seed
pepper to taste (I didn't add salt because the pancetta is salty, you can if you want it saltier)
4 oz of cream cheese, cut into small cubes
cheddar cheese for garnish (optional but yummy!)

Turn on your instant pot and set to saute on high temperature. Add olive oil to pot and when it's warm add the garlic. Saute garlic for 1-2 minutes and add pancetta. Cook the pancetta 5-7 minutes until fully cooked. Add the chicken broth, potatoes, broccoli, celery seed and pepper to the pot. Ensure there is enough liquid to cover the contents of the pot and if not add additional broth or water. Turn the instant pot to pressure cook on high temperature and set the time for 12 minutes. Make sure the vent is set to sealing.

After the pressure cooking is finished do a quick pressure release. When the pressure has released, change the pot back to saute and add the cubes of cream cheese, stirring as you do so. Allow soup to simmer for 4-5 minutes to melt the cream cheese into the soup, then serve with shredded cheese on top!

Note: I used a 6 qt instant pot.

This post contains some affiliate links, I will receive a small commission if you buy from these links. Thank you for your support.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

How to cook an almost whole butternut squash in your instant pot

I love butternut squash (see past recipe butternut squash soup here) but I absolutely hate cutting it up. It's hard, especially peeling it. Making it in the instant pot or other electric pressure cooker, you don't have to peel it! It's amazing.

It doesn't quite have the flavor of an oven roasted butternut but it's still pretty good and it's prefect to use for soups or twice baked or just eating on it's own. It's so healthy and easy.

Too big for the pot!
You can put it in your instant pot without peeling it but you need to cut it up enough so it fits inside. For my 6qt pot, I had to cut mine in fourths. I don't recommend putting it in whole, even if it fits because it won't cook very evenly.

I had one small area where my squash was thick that wasn't cooked all the way after my cook time, if you have a thicker squash, add 1-2 minutes. After this trial, I have suggested 13 minute cook time (I had tried 12 minutes). Or use a few minutes of natural pressure release (ie let the pressure come down without opening the valve) if you have a thick squash.
Ready to go!
Cut squash into fourths and clean out the seeds. Place trivet in bottom of instant pot and pour in 1 cup of water. Place your squash on the trivet and close the lid. Set instant pot for high pressure, 13 minute cook time. Make sure the valve is set to sealing. After the cook time has finished you can do a quick pressure release by opening the valve. The overall cooking time including for the pot to get to pressure is about 20 minutes.

**If you have a thicker than normal squash, you can add 1-2 minutes cooking time or allow it to do a natural pressure release for a few minutes so it cooks a little bit more. Be advised 2 minutes is a lot in pressure cooker time!

Now you have a perfectly cooked squash with very little fuss!

You can scoop it out eat it as it is (yum!) or use it, for example, for a butternut squash soup! Just remove the squash from your pot. Pour out the water from the bottom and remove the trivet. Scoop the squash back into the instant pot and turn on the saute function and follow this recipe as if you were on the stove top.

My almost instant love affair with my instant pot!

I first heard about the instant pot about two years ago, and I didn't have any experience with pressure cooking. My mom didn't do it, I wasn't into canning and I'd never encountered one before but I was intrigued by the quick cooking times. Then my work-wife got one and kept bringing delicious instant pot leftovers for lunch and I knew I needed one too. Now, I am totally in love with it!

If you are thinking about getting on the instant pot bandwagon, here are some tips for you!


We are a family of two but like leftovers, so we got a 6-quart. Since you can't fill the pot as full as say a crock pot, it's good to have some extra space, personally I wouldn't bother with a mini. If you have several children (especially teenagers!) you will probably want an 8-quart, or if you do a lot of big batch cooking. They have a 5-quart but if you are thinking about that size, you might as well get a 6. If you are on the fence about size, check out the post I wrote devoted to what size Instant Pot to buy!

Keep in mind it does take up a fair amount of space, our 6-quart is about the same size as our toaster oven and basically lives on our counter because we use it enough.


You definitely need to give a cursory read to the manual. I have never read a manual for a cooking appliance before that but I was really glad that my work-wife told me to do it when I got mine. Otherwise, you will not take it out of the box.

What can you make with the instant pot?

You can make the same kinds of things generally in an instant pot that you would make in a crock pot but much faster. If you generally like crock pot meals, you will probably like instant pot meals too. There are some additional things you can do in the instant pot too however.

It's great for soups, stews, pulled pork and shredded chicken that taste like they have been cooking all day but are ready in less than an hour. Often much less.

Some of the cook times you see for the instant pot are a little misleading because they only list the 5 or 10 minute cook time but you also need to wait for it to come to pressure, which can take a while if it's really full. However, for certain items I feel like it's still a huge time saver (ie baked potatoes, winter squashes).

You can speed up the amount of time it takes to build pressure by warming it up using the saute function while you are adding your ingredients. Also, keep in mind that your oven also needs to preheat. :-)

So where is the instant pot advantage?

There are 2 big areas where the instant pot kicks a crock pots ass!

1) Cook time: have you ever planned on having a crock meal for dinner but then you were too busy in the morning to get it ready or just plain forgot to do it? Well with an instant pot you can still have pulled pork in an hour and a half if you want.

2) Saute mode: You can braise or cook your meats or other items right in the same pot before you pressure cook everything else. Fewer dishes! I really love this feature also for melting cheese on things after it pressure cooks, it's really fast too because it's higher temp (there are multiple temp choices) than even a slow cooker on high.

And it kicks my oven's rear in area number 3:
3) Not watching it: In this area it's like a slow cooker. You turn it on and go about your business, then it will beep, you release the pressure and it's ready to go. This is really great for pasta for example that you'd watch on the stove to make sure it didn't cook over.

The one thing that was weird when I first got it was not only do you not have to watch it, you can't see what it's doing at all. You can't open it to check it while it's pressure cooking. Now I trust it to work but at the beginning I was like what is this? What's happening in there?

There is definitely a learning curve with the instant pot but I am really glad I got one, even though I didn't need it, I love it.

Check out my suggested recipes for new instant pot owners and which accessories are the most useful.

This post contains some affiliate links, I will receive a small commission if you buy from these links. Thank you for your support.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Mini peanut butter cheesecakes

These mini cheesecakes whip up in no time and are delicious. They bake much faster than a full sized cheesecake and since they're small, you can eat two without guilt!


2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3   eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups of creamy peanut butter
24 Oreos
cupcake liners
muffin pans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put cupcake liners into a muffin tin for 24 mini-cheesecakes. Put an Oreo in the bottom of each liner (for the crust). Beat all of the other ingredients in a large mixing bowl and put about a 1/4 cup of filling in each cupcake liner until it's full. Bake in the preheated oven for 18-20 minutes. Allow to cool and chill for 3 hours prior to serving.

You can also top them with whipped cream if you like!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Simple (non-authentic) pork wonton soup

Wonton packed soup!
If you haven’t visited your local Asian market, you really need to check it out! Though I sometimes find it a little overwhelming since I don’t know what 90% of the things they sell are for, let alone how to use them (packages are often not in English) if you look around a little you can find some really great stuff that is easy to use even if you don’t speak Chinese/Korean/Japanese J

My favorite aisle is the frozen dumpling aisle. In part because I know what they are and how to cook them but mostly because there are SO many different kinds of dumplings. I buy different ones every time I go there (hint: we never like the shrimp dumplings). However, I always make sure I pick up some pork wontons for making soup.

Full disclosure: my wonton soup is really, really not authentic. I have no idea how they make it in Asian restaurants but this tastes good.

This is an easy recipe and as such it’s not an exact science, I usually just throw it together and have put together the rough directions to share. If you aren’t a “throw it together” type of cook, power through, I promise you can do this one too.

1lb mild Italian Sausage (I use turkey sometimes and pork sometimes)
3 stalks diced celery
Optional: additional diced veggies if you are feeling healthy! Options include onions, bell peppers, zucchini and mushrooms
1 cube bullion (chicken or veggie is fine)
1 tb garlic
1 tb onion powder (you might omit if adding onions)
Fresh ground pepper to taste
3 TB soy sauce
1 tb white vinegar
A few splashes of fish sauce

Remove sausage from casings and crumble in the bottom of a large soup pot (I use a 5 qt cast iron Dutch oven). Cook the sausage on med-high heat, crumbling it as it cooks (you might need to add a small bit of oil if the sausage is very lean). When the sausage is 50% cooked, add the diced celery and any additional veggies you’d like and all the spices. When the sausage is fully cooked, pour enough water in to fully cover the contents of the pot. Add the bouillon cube, soy sauce, vinegar and fish sauce. Boil 5-10 minutes.

Add your wontons and additional water so the contents are still covered and boil another 10-15 minutes until the wontons are fully cooked.

Makes approx. 8 bowl-sized servings of soup