What is an Instant Pot? And why I (finally) bought one.

Before Black Friday 2016 I had never heard of an Instant Pot. But that day my newsfeed was filled with posts about how great the Instant Pot is and how it saves people time and money—and how Amazon often puts it on sale. I didn’t buy my Instant Pot that day. I thought it was a trend like so many other kitchen gadgets out there, and I’m not one for fads.

Fast-forward to Boxing Day and once again, my newsfeed was filled with posts about Amazon’s great price on this product. I am an avid slow cooker user, and read that the Instant Pot could replace a slow cooker—this intrigued me. I was growing tired of how heavy my slow cooker is, and my tendency to overcook things in it. It was because of this that I decided to do some research on the Instant Pot. I quickly learned it is a slow cooker, pressure cooker, rice cooker and so much more—all in one.

Needless to say, 1.5 months ago I bought an Instant Pot IP-DUO60 7-in-1 Multi-Functional Pressure Cooker, 6Qt/1000W and I haven’t used my slow cooker since.

Why I love the Instant Pot

1)   Quick meals

If you have a busy household, then you will appreciate the ability to have homemade chili on the table within one hour of your first onion chop (and it will taste as though it was cooking all day long—see below).

2)   Flavourful food

I have yet to make anything in my Instant Pot that isn’t flavourful and tasty; just as it would taste had it simmered in a slow cooker all day long.

3)   Healthy cooking

Just as a slow cooker encourages home cooking, so does the Instant Pot. I love being able to cook real food and having it ready in a minimal amount of time. The Instant Pot allows you to serve healthy meals without having to rely on packaged convenience food.

4)   The sauté feature

To be completely honest, I was sold on the Instant Pot from the moment I realized I could brown the meat and caramelize the onions in the same pot as I cook the chili—one pot cooking. This convenient feature saves time and dishwater!

The Instant Pot’s learning curve

Before I owned an Instant Pot I had never used a pressure cooker, so the functionality and capabilities of this feature confuse me. I am still not sure as to when I should let the Instant Pot “naturally release” the steam versus letting the steam out myself. I usually underestimate the time it takes the Instant Pot to naturally release the steam and the lid will not open (for safety reasons) until all the steam is released from the pot.

Also, the heat and pressure of the manual steam release is quite loud and forceful, so I advise against trying to have a conversation while doing this. I also suggest moving the Instant Pot away from kitchen cupboards since the hot steam can do damage. I have heard of some Instant Pot owners buying PVC piping to redirect the steam away from the cupboards—this is on my to do list.

Knowing how long to cook some meats and meals can be difficult to determine—also knowing it takes 5 to 10 minutes for the Instant Pot to heat up is helpful when planning to have supper on the table by a certain time. Luckily, the Internet is a great resource for timing, recipes as well as cleaning tips for the Instant Pot. There are many bloggers (my favourite is This Old Girl) as well as Facebook Groups devoted to the Instant Pot.

Tried and tasted Instant Pot recipes

With the exceptions of modern additions or changes, I have made the following Instant Pot recipes with great success! My daughter loved all of them. She prefers one pot spaghetti to the traditional kind now.

Chili
Hearty hamburger soup
One pot spaghetti
Apple spice steel cut oatmeal
Whole chicken

Instant pot steel cut oats

Instant pot steel cut oats

The recipe below is one of my own. I like my pork chops tender and this recipe makes them as tender as they get and my daughter likes her pork chops sweet—so this recipe is our go to when it comes to pork chops.

Kid Friendly Sweet Pineapple Pork Chops

4 pork chops, boneless
Salt & pepper

1 cup of fresh pineapple; cut into widgets
2 tbsp. of soya sauce
¼ cup of honey
2 tbsp. maple syurp
3 tbsp. Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon freshly grated ginger
½ teaspoon of cinnamon
¼ teaspoon of ground cloves

  1. Set Instant Pot to sauté and drizzle with olive oil to prevent pork chops from sticking.
  2. Season both sides of the pork chops with salt and pepper and place in the inner pot.
  3. Brown pork chops on both sides/
  4. In a small bowl, combine soya sauce, honey, Dijon mustard, maple syrup, ginger, cinnamon and cloves.
  5. Pour sauce over pork chops, covering them as much as possible.
  6. Lock cover into place; seal steam nozzle.
  7. Set to manual setting for 15 minutes.
  8. Naturally release pressure for about 5 minutes.

Serve with rice and your favourite vegetable. This recipe is at is says–sweet, so kids will like it. 

Many slow cooker recipes can be modified for the Instant Pot. Its pressure cooker capabilities are phenomenal and not as intimidating as your traditional pressure cooker. If you are unsure how your cooking skills will transfer over to the Instant Pot start with something simple like hard boiled eggs, which seems to be a popular stepping stone into the Instant Pot world.

Do you own an Instant Pot? What are some of your favourite recipes? I’m always looking for more recipes, so please share them in the comments below.

Family Friendly Fiddleheads

One of my favourite things about spring is the gradual addition of fresh, local fruits and vegetables to our daily meal plan. One of the spring vegetables I particularly get excited about are fiddleheads.  If you have never eaten fiddleheads before or if you have seen them while strolling through the produce section at your local supermarket but hesitated to pick them up, you are in for a pleasant surprise!

Fiddleheads

Fiddleheads may look funny, but they taste good!

Despite this vegetable’s unusual curly appearance, fiddleheads are actually quite delicious. Their mild taste has been likened to that of asparagus or spinach, and cooked correctly their texture is crunchy, with a wee bit of leafy chewiness.  If your kids like their green vegetables then they should like fiddleheads.

Storing, preparing & cooking fiddleheads

Fiddleheads should be stored in the fridge and only stay fresh for a few days (I like to buy them the same day as I cook them). They are easy to prepare and cook.

Preparing fiddleheads:

1.      Fill your sink or a bowl with fresh, cold water

2.     Remove any brown outer scales with your hand or by using a cloth

3.     Trim or snap off the ends of the stems

4.     Rinse them again in cold water

Cooking fiddleheads:

Fiddleheads can be steamed, sautéed, stir-fried or (my favourite) barbecued.

How to BBQ fiddleheads

Simply put the washed and trimmed fiddleheads in a bowl and mix with a desired amount of olive oil (not too much, just a tbsp. or two depending how many fiddleheads you have), freshly squeezed lemon juice, minced garlic, and salt and pepper.

Stir until the fiddleheads are fully covered with the oily sauce then place them in tinfoil and fold until just a small portion of the fiddleheads can be seen (to let the steam out).  

Place on the BBQ at about 400 degrees for about 10 minutes or until the fiddleheads are bright green and soft in texture (a fork will easily pierce them). Be careful not to overcook them or they will become mushy.

PreparingFiddleheads

Fiddleheads facts

Fiddleheads are high in omega 3 fatty acids, fibre, vitamins A and C as well as potassium, iron, manganese and Vitamin B Complex. They are also a great antioxidant food.

Fiddleheads are grown mainly in the east coast of Canada from ostrich ferns, so although there are several different varieties of ferns, including some grown in the woods or even in your garden they should not be consumed. Only expert harvesters can safely identify edible fiddleheads, so don’t just pick any old fern head and cook it up or you risk getting very ill! 

The fiddlehead season is very short – usually a month maximum (around April and May) and unlike some fruits and vegetables that gets imported you generally won’t see fiddleheads in stores if they are not in season. They grow quickly and must be picked the day they sprout – before they turn into full out ferns!

Fiddleheads are a delicious seasonal treat and I like to think of them as the kick off to local produce season! So, have are you a fiddlehead loving family like we are? I’d love to know your recipe! And if you haven't tried them yet - NOW is your chance!

Meals made easy - Culiniste

We get quite a lot of pitches at Kids in the Capital but when this one landed in my inbox I was particularly excited. The opportunity was to try out a service called Culiniste with a family-sized box. They describe themselves as a better way to cook with fresh ingredients and delicious recipes delivered to your door weekly.

How it works

Ingredients came sorted by recipe and really well insulated.

Ingredients came sorted by recipe and really well insulated.

Every week you get the recipes and ingredients delivered to your door for three recipes (you can choose if it's enough for two people or for four.) You then receive a box with all the ingredients in just the right proportions delivered to your door on Tuesday in a very well insulated and refrigerated box. Each recipe comes with step by step instructions to walk you through cooking each meal. I was also particularly impressed with how green the company is, including instructions on how each part of the package is recyclable and how to deal with them.

What did I think?

There are so many things about this service that I loved.

- The ingredients were fresh and high quality

Just the right amount of each ingredient

Just the right amount of each ingredient

- The ingredients came in just the right proportions. So often I want to make a recipe and only need two tablespoons of something I don't have. I end up buying an entire bottle of something, forgetting I have it, and then buying another bottle of it the next time a recipe calls for that ingredient. They send you everything you need (except olive oil) which I loved and found so convenient.

- The food was tasty and for the most part my kids liked it (admittedly, they wouldn't eat the kale). We had balsamic chicken, swedish meatballs with mashed potatoes and steak salad with baguette. The meals for four definitely had enough for our family of five with kids who don't have huge appetites.

- I liked that there was a good variety in the dishes available to choose from. Spicy, mild, vegetarian, and a mix of kinds of meats to choose from.

There are a few reasons that I wouldn't choose to have this service on a regular basis for my family though. It was a bit more work intensive than I expected. For example, the day we had meatballs I didn't expect I would have to make the meatballs from scratch. The shortest time I spent on the meals was about 30 minutes for the steak salad and the balsamic chicken took a full hour in the kitchen with almost constant tasks for me to do.

Who do I think this is good for?

People who love to cook from scratch with fresh ingredients but don't have the time to go out and get the ingredients easily. People who have a hard time coming up with good meal planning ideas or who struggle with not wasting food when they cook (I'm a big culprit in that department by not getting just the right proportions of things.) They definitely had enough kid friendly options to keep my fairly picky kids happy.

I would definitely get it again, just not every week. If you want to try it out, they've shared a discount code for $20 off your first order on their website. Use kidsinthecapital20 at checkout to take advantage and then let me know what you thought! 

Homemade Chocolate Pudding (cornstarch-free)

By Misty

You can't go wrong with pudding! Kids love the smooth, creamy texture, and you'll love how easy pudding is to make at home. Using full fat milk ensures kids are getting a big hit of vitamins and nutrients!

Nothing better than a cute little pudding face!

Nothing better than a cute little pudding face!

I adapted this recipe from Martha Stewart's chocolate pudding recipe, and attempted to make it a bit healthier. Some people have a hard time digesting cornstarch, and if you're concerned about genetically-modified foods, many corn-based products come from a GMO source. 

Cornstarch-Free Chocolate Pudding

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup arrowroot flour
1/8 tsp salt
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2.5 cups full fat milk
4 large egg yolks
2 tbsps unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Mix the sugar, arrowroot flour, salt and cocoa powder in a saucepan off the stove. Very slowly whisk in the milk, little bits at a time to prevent clumps from forming. Whisk in the egg yolks.

2. Cook over medium heat, whisk constantly (yes, constantly! Work those muscles!). As the liquid reaches the boiling point, it will suddenly turn into a solid creamy mass of pudding - kids love this, as it's magic! Reduce heat to low, and cook for 1 minute, while still whisking. 

3. Remove from heat and melt in butter and vanilla extract. Serve warm, or cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 3 hours to cool. Martha suggests placing the plastic wrap right on top of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming - great tip Martha! :)

Serve plain or with whipped cream. Enjoy!

Weekend Recipe: Hawaiian Meatball Kebabs

We love Hawaiian meatballs - the sweet/sour flavour of the sauce, and fresh pineapple is really popular with my kiddos! I tried making these into kebabs the other day when it was hot enough that I wanted to turn off my oven and turn on the bbq! I made the meatballs ahead of time in the morning when it was cooler, and put the kebabs together later. You could probably cook the meatballs on the bbq too if you had a good pan!

hawaiin meatball kabobs

Hawaiian Meatball Kebabs

Meatballs:

1lb ground meat (we used lamb) 1 egg 1/2 cup bread crumbs 1/2 tsp minced fresh garlic (more if you like your meatballs garlicky!) 1/2 tsp salt 1/2 tsp pepper

Mix all ingredients together in a big bowl (squishing with a fork works well). Form into 1-inch balls and place on a cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees F for 15-20 minutes, turning them over halfway through baking.

Kebabs:

1 pepper cut into large chunks (we used red and yellow) 1 fresh pineapple, cut into large chunks Batch of cooked meatballs (see above)

Grab your kebab skewers and alternate a cooked meatball, piece of pepper and piece of pineapple until the skewer is full. Place on a pre-heated grill, and grill just until peppers are soft (I left them on for about 10 minutes - you want to make sure the meatballs don't get dried out!)

Hawaiian Sauce:

Most Hawaiian sauces are really high in sugar. This is because canned pineapple and the juice is used. I've used stock here instead to cut back on the sugar a bit. It's slightly more sour than sweet, but I liked it a lot better!

1.5 cups veggie or beef stock 2 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce 3 tbsp vinegar 1/4 cup brown sugar or honey 1/2 ground ginger 2 tbsp cornstarch

Whisk all ingredients in a saucepan. Heat until the sauce thickens, usually about 20 minutes.

Take the kebabs off the bbq, and serve with rice. Pour a spoonful of the sauce over the whole place! Bon Appetit!