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.

Recipe: J's French Toast

by AmandaY My 5 y.o. son is a picky eater.  I admit this freely and try to accommodate his preferences and introduce new things slowly but surely. (last week we had a breakthrough with pineapple!)  He has issues with smell, texture, colour, and must know every detail about what it is that he's eating.  I do strive to feed him food that he likes however.

This is my own recipe for French Toast.  I don't own the copyright or anything but it's the balance of flavour that I enjoy and he will eat and then ask for more!  That's all a parent really wants, is to see their kids eat!  I love to make this on weekends when we have time to cook in the kitchen together.  He's an expert mixer, soon he'll be ready to learn to crack the eggs!  His favourite part is the eating, and really can you blame him??

5 eggs 1/4 cup of milk 1 tsp vanilla 1 tsp cinnamon 1/4 tsp nutmeg 6-8 slices whole wheat bread (at least day old works best) 1-2 tbsp vegetable oil

The key to this recipe is to preheat your pan then lower the temperature to about medium or slightly lower.  Don't crowd the pan, I use a fairly large skillet and only two slices at a time.  Halfway through, add some fresh oil.

Serve with *real* maple syrup and your choice of fruit!  My picky eater likes bananas, but they can't be on the same plate as the toast.  :)

Amanda was born and raised in Ottawa where she continues to live with her husband and son “J”. Amanda is bilingual and interests include reading, blogging, socializing, and advocacy on children and teen issues.

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Going Bananas Over Allergy-Free Desserts (egg/dairy/nut/sesame/soy/wheat/gluten-free)

by Meghan Allergy-free and kid-friendly can pose a real challenge in the food department. When it comes to kid-friendly and allergy-free desserts the choices are limited unless you want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Allergy-free baking can be tricky (as with regular baking) and a lot of moms want easy – not everyone is a Martha Stewart.

It is difficult to find easy pre-made allergy-free desserts as they usually cater to only one food allergy or they are ridiculously expensive. I remember bringing home a $30 allergy-free cake to treat my family only to have my 3-year-old exclaim it looked yucky and the baby toss it on the floor.

When you want to treat your little ones and you don’t want all the mess/work, I say grab a banana. I live with a bunch of monkeys, so bananas do not last in the fruit bowl. I end up making a second trip to the grocery store to replenish what was eaten. Even the pickiest of eaters seem to be okay with a banana, so why not make a quick dessert from it? You can even get your picky eater involved!

Now you may wonder how a simple banana could be transformed into an easy dessert without just looking like a boring banana – “yippee mom, bananas again for dessert”.

Here are 5 ways to get your kids going bananas for these banana inspired allergy-free desserts:

Banana Sushi

As adults, we just love to use chopsticks even though we could take the simple route and grab a fork. My oldest daughter is fascinated by chopsticks, but wouldn’t touch real sushi. When she saw that I was rolling up some bananas for dessert, she was ready to use those chopsticks.

Directions: Slice 1.5 inch wide strips of a tortilla wrap. Spread sunflower seed butter (I use SunButter) on one side of the strip. Slice 1.5 inch piece of banana and place on one end of the buttered strip. You are then going to roll the banana into the strip. I topped each of the rolls with a little bit of raspberry jam to mimic fish eggs on real sushi.

Banana Boat

Why dirty a bowl when you have a banana?

Directions: Carve out lengthwise the top of the banana. Take a spoon and scrape out some of the banana and place in a bowl (you want to create a partially hollowed cavity in the banana). Mix 1 tbsp of brown sugar, 2 tbsp of oats, and 1 tsp of butter spread (I use Earth Balance – vegan) into the bowl with banana. Mash all together and place back into hollow cavity of banana. Top with dairy-free chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life brand). Place in oven for 10 minutes at 375F (you can make a little stand from aluminum foil). Banana skin will turn a bit black, but insides will be all warm and gooey.

Banana Sundae

A simple summer treat!

Directions: Slice a pineapple and place ring at bottom of bowl. Place one scoop of sorbet in the middle of pineapple ring. Slice banana and layer around sorbet. Melt a few tbsps of dairy-free chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life brand) with one tbsp of rice milk (or any other choice of milk) in microwave – stir. Pour chocolate sauce over sorbet and bananas. Top with a cherry.

Banana Chocolate Fondue

Kids love to get involved and decorate.

Directions: Slice bananas in 2 inch pieces. Melt dairy-free chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life brand) with rice milk (or any other choice of milk) in microwave – stir (1 tbsp of milk for every 3 tbsp of chocolate). Dip banana pieces into melted chocolate and place on plate. Put toothpick in top of banana piece. Let kids decorate with sprinkles or cereal.

Banana Fruit Stick

The easiest and healthiest of all desserts, but children just love anything on a stick! My daughter wouldn’t touch kiwi, but since I put it on a stick next to the bananas, she didn’t make any mention of hating it.

Directions: Cut up bananas, watermelon, kiwi, pineapple, or any other fruit on hand and place on a skewer.

Meghan is the mother of 2 beautiful girls aged 1 and 3. She has been recently diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis which is a form of arthritis. In the process she has discovered that diet severely influences her symptoms as she is intolerant to dairy, gluten, eggs, and corn. She blogs about her daily challenges with dietary restrictions at Bon Appetit Allergy Free Treats and you can also follow her on Twitter .

Valentine's Day Dinner

by Carly
We love to celebrate Valentine's Day with a nice family dinner.  We set the table with our nicest dishes, keeping to a red and white theme.  Jake loves shaped pancakes so I had fun making heart-shaped ones for our special dinner.
I had a few heart-shaped cookie cutters laying around, so after mixing my pancake batter and pre-heating the pan, I sprayed the cookie cutters with cooking oil and placed them in the pan.  Add the batter, be careful not to overfill the cutters.  When the pancake starts to bubble, use a pair of tongs to remove the cookie cutter from the pan.  You may need to gently cut around the edge of the cutter with a knife to loosen the pancake first.  Once the cookie cutter is removed, flip the pancake and cook it on the other side.  Be sure to re-spray the cookie cutters with cooking oil before using them for the next pancake.
 
Since my husband isn't big on pancakes, I made him some heart shaped eggs, using the same method.
 
Topped with maple syrup, some powdered sugar and homemade fruit salad, our pancakes made with a lot of love were a big hit!
Carly has red hair and occasionally the temper to match.  She loves potatoes, rainy nights, photography, her husband and her 5 year old son, Jacob.  Probably in reverse order.   She also blogs.
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