A Tale of an Instant Pot

I’m always late to the party.

I mean that figuratively, although I am also often literally late. If there is something new or “hot”, I don’t often jump on the bandwagon until the fervor had died down a bit. I will hem and haw and convince myself I don’t need something or that it isn’t as great as the hype makes it out to be. Quite often, whatever the “thing” is transforms my life and leaves me wondering why I didn’t buy it sooner.

Case in point: Instant Pot.

I was quick to tell myself I didn’t need an Instant Pot. After all, I had a crock pot, and why in the world would I need something that did exactly what a crockpot could do? I sat through endless Instastories featuring the awesomeness of the IP. I watched as friend after friend raved about how it had changed their ability to get dinner on the table for their families. My friend Diana asked me countless times “so, have you bought an Instant Pot yet?

The answer was always no.

Until last April. I succumbed to peer pressure, and I started to read the reviews. I began to look at recipes. Hmm… maybe it would change my life. Maybe I do need another appliance. Maybe Diana is right.

So I placed my order. And then the box sat in my dining room for another 2 months.

Diana’s “have you bought an Instant Pot yet?” became “have you used your Instant Pot yet?”

I was scared! I had seen all the memes of pressure cookers blowing up people’s kitchens. Trust me, if something bad is going to happen, it is going to happen to me.

One day in late June, I decided to pull the Instant Pot out and try my hand at macaroni and cheese. I had everything I needed in my fridge and pantry, and it was time. Or so Jason House said repeatedly, every time he passed the boxed in the dining room.

Y’all, it did change my life. I’m not kidding. This thing is awesome. Read it again: AWESOME.

Yes, it can do everything a crockpot will do (and I love my crockpot, no shade Bessie) (Bessie is my crockpot) {quietly so Bessie doesn’t hear} it does it better.

I still haven’t really scratched the surface of everything it can do, but I am using it multiple times a week.

What I Love:

  • It has solved my “but I didn’t defrost any meat” dinner dilemma. This thing handles frozen chicken like a boss. I take 3 large chicken breasts, some sort of marinade or chicken broth, and cook for 25-30 minutes. It shreds like butter. You can cook hamburger meat, roasts, pork tenderloin, etc all from frozen! (Of course you can also cook defrosted meat, and it will shorten the cook time considerably).
  • Most of my meals have now become one pot meals or easy cook dinners. At least once a week I cook chicken that is used for buffalo chicken sandwiches, wraps, or salads. Another favorite is greek chicken – I shred and use on pita bread, salads, wraps, and more. Our favorite family recipe is sausage macaroni and cheese: I just brown the sausage on the Saute setting, then add the macaroni and cheese ingredients and cook.
  • The Instant Pot makes the best hard boiled eggs! We go through 12-18 hard boiled eggs per week. Jason loves to take them to work for breakfast, and the kids eat them as snacks or with their lunches. You can stack the eggs in the Instant Pot and truly – I have never had eggs peel easier than they do with the Instant Pot. The entire peel just slips right off.

I haven’t really found any downsides to the Instant Pot yet. My only complaint is that depending on what you cook, the plastic inner ring of the pot can retain the smell. That sucker reeked of onions after an attempt at Instant Pot salisbury steak. However, you can pop it out and put it in the dishwasher and I found that helped tremendously.

Stayed tuned for more Instant Pot recipes – they are coming!

Anyway, I write all this because I was on Amazon (as you do, some people like to browse news stories in the morning – I like to browse Amazon) and I saw the Instant Pot was on super sale. I paid $80 for my 6 quart Instant Pot and it does not have a yogurt setting. This Instant Pot is also 6 quarts and it has more settings than mine does. It is on sale right now for $69.99 – that’s the lowest I’ve ever seen the price go, including Black Friday and Prime Day.

Instant Pot DUO60 6 QT 7-in-1 Multi-Use Programmable Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, Rice Coker, Steamer, Saute, Yogurt Maker and Warmer

 

You can either click the link directly or click the box above to purchase. This is an affiliate link, meaning if you purchase by clicking the link I will get a small percentage of the sale. If you are not comfortable with that, please feel free to search directly on Amazon. This is a daily deal, meaning the price will only be active for today only.

If you already have an Instant Pot, please share your favorite recipes!

I would be remiss if I posted this blog without mentioning the tragedy in Las Vegas. I woke up to news of the massacre, and my heart is so heavy. I pray for all the victims, the survivors, and all the loved ones who are mourning and standing strong today. Jesus, please be near to those who are hurting and scared. There doesn’t seem to be adequate words in a time like this, so I will pray, and I hope you will as well. 

Halloween Themed Food

As I said in yesterday’s post, I really can’t turn down an opportunity to turn an everyday occasion into a special occasion. I’ve learned with my family that it doesn’t have to be perfect or expensive to make something ordinary extraordinary! Themed food is an easy way to make a weeknight or weekend dinner fun.

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For our Boo To You Halloween Dinner, I made quite a few Halloween themed food items.

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Zombie meatballs – I used frozen meatballs and placed them in the slow cooker with a bottle of grape jelly and a bottle of chili sauce. These were delicious, and they were not spicy at all.

Pumpkins – these were just peeled mandarin oranges with celery sticks stuck in the center.

I made boxed mac and cheese and served them in clear cups with jack o lantern faces.

Monster rice crispy treats – I made rice crispy treats, and cut them out into rectangle shapes. I dipped the tops into colored chocolate and stuck on edible eyeballs.

Mummy dogs – These were made using crescent rolls. Roll out the crescent rolls so that it is a solid sheet (or buy the full sheet crescent rolls). I used a pizza cutter to cut the crescents into strips and just wrapped around the hot dogs. Create eyes with ketchup.

I also served my Copycat Starbucks Caramel Apple Spice.

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Another night we had mummy pizzas – these are super easy as well! I use french bread as the dough, and I top with pizza sauce and whatever toppings my family desires. Instead of using shredded cheese, I used mozzarella slices that I again cut into strips with a pizza cutter. Black olives make great eyes.

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Last year I made these fun pudding cups. I used clear cups and filled with chocolate pudding. Then I topped the pudding with crushed oreos, a tombstone peep, and gummy worms. If you cant find the tombstone peeps, you can make a tombstone using Milano cookies and icing.

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Don’t forget school lunches can be themed too! I have a pumpkin, bat, and ghost cookie cutter that get heavy rotation during October.

For Halloween night, I always serve Buffalo Chicken Chili and cornbread, and I made this pumpkin cake that is to die for.

What have you been cooking this October?

Boo To You Halloween Dinner

If you know me well, you know it is no secret that I love celebrations. I love taking seemingly ordinary days and turning them into special parties for my kids. Life is too short not to grab a little fun when and where you can. Cooper in particular gets so excited about our celebrations which is why I continue to do it.

This year was our first annual Boo To You Halloween Dinner and I wanted to share in case you wanted to plan a Halloween dinner for your family! It isn’t too late and you probably have most of what you need already on hand.

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First – decorations! I can’t throw any party without fun decorations. Thank goodness for Target’s one dollar spot, right?! The tablecloth, spiderweb chargers, tree and ornaments, pumpkins, and aliens are from Target. The plates are from Kroger.

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Each child got a Halloween pajamas (except Cooper – he’s unfortunately out of child pajamas and into the big boy sizes now) and a Halloween book.

I themed our food as well.

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We had pumpkin oranges, mac and cheese in jack o lantern cups, vampire doughnuts, monster rice crispy treats, zombie brains (meatballs), and mummy dogs. I also served my Copycat Starbucks Caramel Apple Spice to drink.

Do you do any special themed meals to celebrate Halloween? Share your ideas in the comments.

Check back tomorrow for recipes and more ideas for Halloween food!

Salisbury Steak & Roasted Broccoli

Today’s recipe is a delicious and frequently requested recipe in our house. I hope you love it as much as we do!

Salisbury Steak & Roasted Broccoli

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Salisbury Steak

Credit: Moms by Heart

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

Directions:

  1. Mix together the ground beef, bread crumbs, and egg. Form into 4 patties and season with salt and pepper.
  2. In a skillet, heat olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter.
  3. Add the patties and cook until desired doneness.
  4. Remove patties from pan. Cover with aluminum foil and set to the side.
  5. Using the same skillet (don’t drain the drippings!), add 2 tablespoons butter, mushrooms, and onions. Cook until mushrooms are soft and onions are translucent.
  6. Add garlic and cook until fragrant (1 minute).
  7. Add heavy cream. Bring to a boil and reduce to low until sauce thickens.
  8. Plate the patties and cover with cream sauce.

Roasted Broccoli with Cheese Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 3 pounds broccoli, trimmed and stems removed
  • Olive oil
  • Fresh cracked pepper and kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1.5 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a bowl, combine broccoli, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss to coat.
  3. Spread broccoli out on a baking sheet. Bake 10-15 minutes until soft.
  4. While broccoli is cooking, start on the cheese sauce.
  5. Add butter to saucepan and allow butter to melt. (Use medium heat.)
  6. Add flour and whisk constantly, until mixture turns brown (2 minutes).
  7. Add milk, whisking vigorously, until no lumps remain.
  8. Add cheese and whisk until melted. Turn heat to low.
  9. Drizzle cheese sauce over broccoli.

What’s on your menu this week?

Quick & Easy Feta Dip Appetizer

Happy Tuesday! Are you hungry? I hope so!

Today’s recipe is something that is cheap, easy, and super filling. I call it an appetizer but you could easily serve this with a salad and have a meal for 3-4 people.

Ready? Here we go!

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Quick & Easy Feta Dip Appetizer

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Pour a generous amount of olive oil into the base of a plate.
  2. Top with feta cheese crumbles and chopped roma tomatoes
  3. Sprinkle Cavender’s Greek Seasoning generously over the mixture
  4. Eat by topping the bread with the mixture.

SO GOOD! Jason and I ate this for dinner two days in a row. Let me know what you think if you try it!

I can’t take credit for this – this is a recipe that’s floated around amongst my Twitter/IG friends since last summer. Meredith, Rachel, Mimi – thanks for sharing!

Snicker Bomb Cookies

These cookies are quite good. I don’t care for peanut butter, but I have to say this it was the perfect addition to this recipe.

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Snicker Bomb Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1.5 cups brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups chocolate peanut butter (Nutella or Jiffy Whipped)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 bag snickers bites (found in the candy section of your grocery store) (or you can chop up 4-5 snickers bars)
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chops

Directions:

  1. In a mixing bowl, beat together butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and peanut butter. Beat until fluffy.
  2. Add eggs and vanilla; beat.
  3. Add flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Beat.
  4. Mix well, stopping to scrape down the sides with a spatula.
  5. Add a cup of chocolate chips and the bag of snickers bites.
  6. Mix until combined.
  7. Cover mixing bowl and chill in refrigerator for 3-4 hours.
  8. Scoop dough with a spoon and roll with your hands into small balls.
  9. Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes.

This makes a ton of dough – I shaped half of the batter into balls and then flash froze them on cookie sheets. Once they were frozen I put them into a zip lock bag. You can take them out frozen – just add a couple of minutes to your cooking time.

Here’s the menu for the rest of the week:

  • Monday: (Red Robin Copykat) Teriyaki chicken sandwiches, grilled squash, and frozen fries
  • Tuesday: Trisha Yearwood’s Baked Spaghetti
  • Wednesday: Paula Deen’s Taco Soup
  • Thursday: Taco Ring
  • Friday: Disney Family Movie Night {Lilo & Stitch} — Luau theme — Menu to be determined
  • Saturday: Crispy cheddar chicken and baked fries
  • Sunday: Lemon pepper tenderloin with veggies from the Bountiful Basket

What’s cooking at your house this week?

Pan Roasted Chicken and Veggies

I mentioned yesterday that this summer I’ve taken advantage of our area’s Bountiful Basket. It’s a fruit and veggie co-op where you can log online every two weeks and purchase at least one basket of fruit and veggies and then add ons: granola, breads, fruits, and/or vegetables in bulk. I am so glad my friend Dana told me about this because I’ve had a blast cooking vegetables I normally would have cruised by in the store. It has forced me to get out of my comfort zone with cooking, and with the add ons I’ve been able to stock our freezer with strawberries, peaches, and cherries for the winter.

Today’s recipe is Pan Roasted Chicken and Veggies. My friend Ashley shared it on Instagram one night and one Saturday as I was unloading my Bountiful Basket and wondering how in the world I was going to use all the veggies this recipe came to mind. I’ve made it four times in 6 weeks – that’s how good it is!

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Pan Roasted Chicken and Veggies

Ingredients:

  • Chicken with skin – I recommend using thighs
  • Potatoes
  • Whole mushrooms – I’ve used both baby bellas and white mushrooms
  • Carrots
  • Peppers – a mixture of red, green, and yellow
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic
  • Salt & pepper
  • Paprika

You can really customize this however you like. Leave something out if you don’t like it, or add something in.

Directions:

  1. Chop your veggies. I use small red potatoes and usually just cut them in half. The mushrooms I leave whole, and I use baby carrots so I don’t have to cut them.
  2. For the garlic, you can either use minced garlic or whole garlic cloves. I’ve done it both ways!
  3. Add everything but the chicken to a large bowl. Generously pour in olive oil. You want enough to coat the veggies. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and paprika and toss to coat.
  4. Pour the veggies into a roasting pan, spreading out evenly. Add in your chicken thighs.
  5. Brush the top of the chicken thighs with a little olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and paprika.
  6. Cook at 375 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

This is so good! If you try it, let me know what you think.

Cherry Cocktail & Mocktail

I love cherries! Do you? The good news is that cherries are in season right now, and they cost slightly less than an arm and a leg to purchase. I have subscribed to receive a Bountiful Basket this summer, and a recent add on was 16 lbs of red cherries. I split the order with a friend and was faced with the daunting task of deciding what we should do with 8 pounds of cherries. I came up with a Cherry Cocktail & Mocktail recipe for you!

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My master plan had been to just freeze the cherries, but I need to de-pit them first. We didn’t have a cherry pitter, so my husband got all redneck and made one out of a fork. It made quick work of seven pounds of cherries!

I decided to try my hand at creating a cocktail and mocktail for the 4th of July with the extra cherries we did not freeze!

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The cocktail is a Chocolate Covered Cherry Sangria. Really, did you expect anything else? Y’all know I love my sangria.

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Chocolate Covered Cherry Sangria

Ingredients:

  • Chocolate flavored red wine. My favorite is the brand ChocolatRouge and it is sold at Publix. The brand has two different chocolate wines: one is labeled Dark Red and the other is labeled Rich Chocolate flavors. In the picture above, I am using the Dark Red. This is more of a red wine with a hint of chocolate. If you want more chocolate punch, use the Rich Chocolate.
  • 1 cup chocolate flavored vodka. I used Pinnacle Whipped Chocolate.
  • 2 cups black cherry juice. I found this at Publix with the organic juices.
  • 3 cups ginger ale
  • 1 cup cherries

Directions:

  1. Mix the red wine, vodka, and black cherry juice. Add the ginger ale a little bit at a time as it rises and fizzes. Add the cherries. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.

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This version was made using the Rich Chocolate Flavors of the ChocolatRouge. Not as visually appealing, but it was tasty! It had more of a chocolate milk flavor and texture.

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I made this Cherry Limeade for the kids to enjoy during our 4th of July celebration. It was a big hit, and my husband loves it!

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Cherry Limeade

*adapted from Cooking with Paula Deen

Ingredients:

  • 4 cans lime flavored sparkling water (La Croix or Aquafina)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups black cherry juice
  • 1 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 10 oz cherries
  • Lime slices

Directions:

  1. Juice your lemons and limes. You need 1 cup of fresh lime juice and 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice.
  2. Add to your pitcher. Pour in your black cherry juice.
  3. Add sugar and stir vigorously until dissolved.
  4. Add the sparkling water, one can at a time.
  5. Stir.
  6. Add the cherries and sliced limes. You can also use lime slices as garnish on your glasses.
  7. Refrigerate overnight for best results.

Are you a cherry fan? What’s your favorite cherry recipe?

Frozen Peach Sangria

Have I got a recipe today for you! Ready? Frozen Peach Sangria. Go ahead, imagine it. It is as delicious as it sounds.

Side note: I wonder sometimes what you people must think of me and my alcoholic recipes. I promise I do not drink every night. I drink maybe one night a week, and even then it is only 1 glass of wine. A few weeks ago, I texted a friend to tell her I was making sangria for my 4th of July BBQ. “Of course you are!” was her response. Well, at least I am consistent.

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Frozen Peach Sangria

Ingredients:

  • Peaches or nectarines (or a mixture of both – I also added in two apricots!)
  • Sugar
  • Water
  • Moscato wine
  • Ice cube trays

I used 6 peaches, 6 nectarines, and 2 apricots and it made three ice cube trays. You’ll get about 10 drinks out of three ice cube trays and one large bottle of wine.

IMG_5967Directions:

  1. Make a simple syrup: place 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of sugar into a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and let cool.
  2. Peel your peaches, nectarines, and/or apricots and cut the fruit into chunks.
  3. Add fruit and simple syrup to blender. Blend until smooth, and then pour into your ice cube trays.
  4. Freeze until solid. At that point you can pop the cubes out and place them in a zip lock baggie.
  5. To make your frozen sangria, simply pop out a few cubes and place in your blender. Add wine and blend. You may need to add more wine to make it a drinkable consistency – just play with it until it is the way you like it.

This reminds me a lot of Outback’s Wallaby Darned. It is very very good!

What’s on your menu this week?

Tomato Pie

Confession: I love Paula Deen. I really do. I love her Southern sass, her handsome family, her cooking show, her style of cooking, and I even love her furniture line. I know she’s made some mistakes recently (haven’t we all?) but I still am a huge supporter of her empire. Her recipes are artery killers, for sure, but I’ve never made one of her dishes that wasn’t an instant hit.

Her Tomato Pie is no exception.

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Tomato Pie

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 large tomatoes, preferably from your garden or a farmer’s market
  • 10 fresh basil leaves (I’ve used dried in a pinch)
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • One frozen deep dish pie shell
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup mayonnaise (Duke’s!)
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Take the frozen pie shell out of the freezer and set it on the counter to thaw while you prep the rest of the ingredients.
  2. Cut your tomatoes into slices. The original recipe says to peel them, but I never do. When I make this at the beach, my mom either peels them with a knife or dips them in boiling water and peels the skin off with her hands.
  3. Place the tomato slices on a paper towel and salt generously. You can also place them into a colander. You want to drain off some of the juice.
  4. Wash and dry the basil leaves. Slice your basil into narrow strips.
  5. Chop the green onions.
  6. Grate your cheese.
  7. Combine 1 cup mayonnaise, 1 cup cheddar cheese, and 1 cup mozzarella.
  8. Start to put together your pie. Layer the tomatoes, basil, and green onions until you have used all your tomatoes. (I usually do two layers.)
  9. Top with the mayonnaise/cheese mixture.
  10. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

This is SO GOOD, y’all. Make it immediately!