Thursday, February 23, 2017

Amazing Things You Can Do With an Instant Pot

Power Pressure Cooker

Like many moms, I am always on the lookout to make cooking and cleaning easier.  I got an Instant Pot for Christmas.  I absolutely love it!!  Everyday I am learning something new by searching online or experimenting myself.  This appliance is so much more than an electric pressure cooker.  That, in itself is quite the feat.  I hope this doesn't come across as an infomercial, I just really love this appliance.  If you look through my blog, this is the only product review to date.

I remember my mom cooking with a pressure cooker as a kid.  It was so scary!  The pot would shake and make scary sounds.  I don't know about you, but I always secretly wanted to play with the steam release.  That is until my mom told me it could explode.  WHAT?! EXPLODE!

Well, after we got married my husband bought one and we used it once.  I think my childhood experiences still creeped me out.  Then, I saw an infomercial about another brand of electric pressure cooker.  Well, it looked amazing, they sucked me in.

A friend of mine joined a Facebook Instant Pot Group and invited me.  Well, these Ladies (and Gents) were making all kinds of cool stuff from yogurt to cheesecake.  So, I decided to do some research and buy one.  I decided to go with the Instant Pot mainly because it had a stainless steel pot.  The other brands seemed nice, but the nonstick lining was commented in the reviews section as flaking off.  Well, with all the talk about how unhealthy that is for you, I thought I would have to replace the pot often.  Plus, the Instant Pot's Stainless Steel  pot was dishwasher safe.  There's nothing I hate more than the dishes.  I make it a point to only buy kitchen supplies that can be thrown in the dishwasher.  Yes, my lazy secret is out! 

Which brings me to another plus about the Instant Pot, it has a sauté button.  Unlike a slow cooker you can sauté your meat or onions in the same pot before you cook it.  Seriously, love that.  It's one less pan to wash and I don't need a stove top or hotplate to cook.  This makes it perfect for camping, vacationing in a hotel room, or even a college dorm.  I have friends that freeze meals in round plastic wear, take those meals in a cooler to cook in an Instant Pot right in their hotel room.  Another friend bought one to send with their daughter to college.  She can cook up meals using the sauté feature or warm up canned foods.  Her friends thought it was weird at first, but when they came back from Christmas break they had one too.

The Instant Pot can be used as an electric pressure cooker, rice cooker, slow cooker,  a steamer, yogurt maker, limited hot plate, baking and for stockpot cooking.  There are a variety of options to suit your needs.  The 8qt DUO, 6 qt DUO, 6qt LUX, 5qt DUO, and the new blue tooth model.

I have the 6qt LUX.  I am wanting the 8qt. DUO.
We have a family of five, the 6qt is large enough to feed the family, but we like to eat leftovers for lunch.

I love to make rice in the Instant pot, it only takes 10 minutes and the rice comes out perfect.

The slow cooker feature works just like any other slow cooker, except the pot is larger than most of the slow cookers on the market.  Again, I love how you can sauté ingredients or brown your meat right in the same pot.

There are many steam inserts you can buy or might already have at home to use with your instant pot.  These two are my favorite inserts stainless steel steamer and this steaming rack (check the dimensions of your particular pot).  You can stack them if needed on your included rack.  Besides the obvious vegetable steaming, the Instant also makes great boiled/steamed eggs.

I use this insert most often for steaming vegetables and hard boiled eggs.

I love this one too, because you can stack it inside your Instant Pot.
I bought this one at a thrift shop for $.75, sorry no link.
I highly recommend checking out your local thrift shop for accessories for your Instant Pot.  I was told, pretty much anything that you can use in your oven and will fit inside your Instant pot can be used.

The included rack.

I haven't yet tried to make yogurt, but on the Facebook sites I follow, this and making cheesecake are a favorite.  Here are instructions I am wanting to try to use on your LUX model, that doesn't come with the yogurt feature button.  Your thinking "why buy an Instant Pot that doesn't have the yogurt feature?" It's cheaper!

The use of the Instant pot as a hot plate can be a little tricky.  You MUST always use the pot as a liner that came with the instant pot.  But, after that you can warm up your leftovers instead of using a microwave or sauté like you would your frying pan.  You can also use this feature to cook like a stock pot when making soups, etc. that you do not want to bring to pressure. *It is very dangerous to try and deep fry, so please do not try this.

Many people love to use a 7-8" spring form pan for baking.  They put a cup of water in the bottom of the pan.  They place their rack inside the Instant pot liner and stack the spring form pan on top of the rack.  If you are worried too much moisture will get into your baking, you can cover the spring form pan with foil.  Lasagna, cheesecake, and banana bread are some favorites using this method.

The Instant pot has several settings.  Some will come to pressure and some will not, so even if you are still frightened about pressure cooking there are so many other uses for the Instant Pot.

Some other fun stuff I like to make with my Instant Pot include:
and the list goes on and on.

Other brand pots have features for canning, but Instant Pot doesn't feel comfortable to make that claim saying it might be dangerous.  By dangerous, I mean they are worried that canning is a precise technique, and they don't want their customers to get sick if the pot didn't reach the desired temperature and length of time.  So, please do your research before using any electric pressure cooker to can.

The only thing I don't like about my Instant Pot is the sealing ring can get a bit smelly.  I have never had the smell transfer into the food I was cooking before.  Here's a tip I picked up to help with the smell.  Soak the seal ring in denture cleaner overnight to help get the stink out. Or you can always buy another one.  One for sweet and one for savory dishes.

If you burnt your inner pot, try Barkeepers Friend for an easier cleanup.

These are the reasons I love my Instant Pot, I hope you found this blog post helpful. 

If so you might also like:

Instant Pot Taco Soup

slow cooker ham and cabbage

slow cooker peanuts

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Simple Hot Air Balloon Valentine Box

My daughter is in her last year of elementary school and surprisingly didn't want to make a Valentine's Day box.  She is normally really creative and loves stuff like this.  Must be the "I'm too cool for that" attitude that comes at this age.  Unfortunately, most moms in this day and age would have just made the box for her. I however think they need to make their projects themselves.   I know I am not the norm in this thinking.  I told her to pick something, or she'd be the only kid without a box. I think this is a big problem in todays society, parents doing their kids school projects.  When I was a kid we did the entire project ourselves.  Everyone's might not have been as professionally looking as they are today, but you could tell they made it themselves and really tried hard.  I think when you over help your child, it tells them they aren't good enough, and it hinders their creativity.  These projects are life lessons, so at the very least, let your kids help.  I have one friend who doesn't even let her kids pick what they want their Valentine's Day box to be.  She completely designs and creates the box.  Newsflash parents, it's your kid's box not yours.

Now I'm not saying just let them go crazy and get frustrated trying to figure it out.  It's ok to give little helpful opinions or help with their design a little, but for the most part it should be the kids designing and making the box. 

So, she decided she wanted to make a hot air balloon for her Valentine's day box. She looked around the house to see what we had that might be of use to her.  She found an old basket and pulled the handle right out of it.  She found some leftover balloons from her Dad's birthday party.  She also found some chopsticks leftover from our recent take out.  This took her about ten minutes to gather supplies.

She blew up the balloon, to make sure it was going to be big enough.

She decided to wrap pink ribbon around the chopsticks to make them more girlie.

She decided hot glue would work the best to hold the chopsticks to the basket.

She found a ribbon off a gift a neighbor had recently given us.

She hot glued the bow and chopsticks to the basket.

She asked me if I thought the hot glue would pop the balloon.
I told her if she is very careful and put the glue on top of all four sticks, and let it cool a bit it might be OK.  If not we can always try the LOCTITE vinyl, fabric, and plastic glue.

The hot glue worked great we waited long enough to cool, but still be runny.

She decided the basket looked a little plain, and wanted to cover up the glue spots where the basket met the chopsticks.

She glued bows where the balloon met the chopsticks.

She decided to add more bows on the bottom as well.

She did this all the way around the basket.

From start to finish she spent about 30 minutes on her hot air balloon Valentine's Day Box.
It's really simple, but she designed it and made it herself and that's all that matters.

I think it turned out pretty cute.  We as parents need to step back and not control our kids projects.  They are suppose to be learning and be creative.  If we do it for them, all the learned is they aren't good enough.

She did later use black glitter stickers to spell out her name on the balloon.

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Monday, February 6, 2017

Get Your Kids to Turn Off Their Screens

Like most families, we were starting to notice our kids turning more and more towards their phones, Kindles, computer, video games and streaming TV.  On one hand you want your kids to be tech savvy, on the other hand you want them to enjoy the things you did as a kid. They only get to be a kid once and need to explore, create, and use their imagination.  I didn't want their only childhood memories to be behind the screen.

When they were little we set 20 min. time limits on the computer, then they had to switch with their sister.  One movie a day before bed and one hour on the wii.  Of course this is after all their chores.  But as they've gotten older, there is so much more technology now fighting for their attention.

We made the basic rule that no tech could be used before chores were done.  We implemented a Tech-Free Tuesday.  The kids weren't even allowed to watch TV, play video games or computers on Tuesdays.  This worked great for a while.

We first bought our kids cell phones, because we needed to be able to get a hold of them after school.  With our crazy carpool situation it was a must.  We opted for a cheap plan where if you bought the phone you got unlimited calling and text for $10 a month with wifi data only.  We thought well we can keep tabs on the data since they can only use it if they have wifi.  Only problem is you can get free wifi now almost anywhere.

We gave them the NO SEXTING (sex texting) lecture. We explained what kind of legal charges they might face if they got caught.  We explained how once those kind of pictures are out there, they an never be taken back.  This is the kind of things that follow you when interviewing for a job or even one day your future kids might see them.  Respect yourself and your boyfriend.  If your boyfriend really cared about you he wouldn't jeopardize you like that.

We first set rules that they weren't allowed to text after 10:00 pm.  Because, nothing good happens on a text after 10:00pm, and all their friends have our home phone number. If they really need to talk to you, they an call our home phone (we pay $5 a month for our home line, after $100 purchase on Ooma). Well, just because you set the rules, other kids are still going to text your kids.

We decided to take it a step further and have a charging station.  Everyone must turn in their cellphones and electronic devices by 8:00pm.  The charging station is in my bedroom, where only my husband and myself have access to them.  We wanted them to have some down time away from the phone and kindle before bed.  With the exception of the laptop if they are doing homework.  If they are out after 8:00pm, their cell phone must be turned in when they walk through the door.

Well, the more tech our kids gained the more time they spent on them.  So, we decided to add Tech-Free Thursday to our Tech-Free Tuesday.  At first our kids complained about how bored they were.  It's important for your kids to get bored.  They learn so many wonderful things from being bored.  Are you going to be there and organize their entire life's activities? No.  They need to learn to entertain themselves and creativity immerges.  It helps them not to expect life to always be entertaining.

As technology changes and our kids change, we have to change our rules and lives to coincide with these changes.  I hope our family's technology experiences help you decide on how to handle technology in your home.

We'd love to hear what works for your kids.

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