Instant Pot Love – How to make yogurt, cheesecake, meatloaf and more

Do you have an Instant Pot yet?

It was apparently the hottest gift for the 2017 holiday season, so if you’re like me, someone who loves you bought you one of these babies.

Happy Holidays to me!

It’s really an amazing machine.

It’s a pressure cooker – but not one of those old and clunky ones that your grandmother used to have that made horrible noises and looked like it might explode at any moment.

This is a computerized cooking machine that is smart enough to remember your past settings and cook everything from hardboiled eggs to cheesecake to BBQ ribs.

After using this machine for a few weeks, I was able to happily donate my old slow cooker (because the IP has a slow cooker setting that doesn’t involve pressurization), my rice cooker (it makes all rice, quinoa, oatmeal, and any other type of grains in half the time of the best rice cooker on the market), and my yogurt maker.

Yogurt

Speaking of yogurt, you can literally make a ton of it at the touch of a button. I recommend setting it up before you go to bed at night, and you’ll wake up to yogurt!

All it requires is:

  • a gallon of milk,
  • a small container of plain yogurt (approx. 6 oz.), and
  • a 5 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk.

Put it on the “Yogurt” setting for 10 hours (or more) and then refrigerate.

That’s it.

Six quarts of homemade Greek yogurt.

That yields 6 quarts of yogurt.

Wow!

Adapting Your Favorites to the IP

My first experiment with this machine was for a tagine recipe … one of my favorite Moroccan dishes with chicken, chicken livers, green olives, preserved lemons, and other veggies.

Instead of slow cooking this for 8-9 hours, or on the stovetop in a fancy tagine clay pot, I simply placed all the ingredients in the Instant Pot and pressure-cooked it for 25 minutes.

Instant Pot Moroccan chicken

I have to admit, I was still a little nervous. Would that be enough time to cook chicken? And to make sure all of the flavors were properly cooked in to the meat?

To my pleased surprise, it turned out beautifully. If you are trying to adapt your favorite recipes to the Instant Pot, check out this link.

I think the most important thing when adapting is to check the pressure release – a “quick release” of the pressure will let the steam escape right away and are for recipes that are not generally slow-cooked (see, for example, the meatloaf and mashed potatoes recipe, below).

For a recipe like this chicken where you want the flavors to be infused into every bite, you will want to do a “natural release” method after the cooking time is over. It takes a few extra minutes, but it’s worth it. And it’s still ready to eat in a fraction of the time.

Sweet Dishes

One of the first rookie mistakes of the Instant Pot is to neglect the sealing ring. The IP comes with a clear ring that fits on the inside of the pressurized lid.

At the very least, you need to make sure the sealing ring is cleaned after every use, or the flavors from whatever you cook will stick to the ring and get into everything you cook later.

If you intend to use your Instant Pot for savory dishes (chicken, ribs, eggs) as well as sweet dishes (cheesecakes and desserts), then the first thing you need to do is buy at least one extra sealing ring. I got a pair of them on Amazon.

Now I only use the red sealing ring for desserts and sweet dishes.

I also purchased a springform pan that fits inside a 6-quart Instant Pot, and I can use this for cheesecakes and other desserts as well as lasagna.

Cheesecake

I made a couple of different types of cheesecake to see how well it worked. Basically, you can make the crust however you like (crushed cookies with melted butter, or even a brownie that is only partially baked in the oven).

Oreo crust!

Then the filling recipe is simple:

  • 4 8-oz. packages of cream cheese
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar

The most important thing to remember is that the cream cheese and eggs MUST be at room temperature. If not, they will not blend properly and will result in a lumpy cheesecake. Make sure all ingredients are blended and smooth, then pour into your springform pan.

Cook on the (high) pressure setting for 45 minutes, and use the natural release method (which will take about another 10-15 minutes).

Let it cool and garnish with your favorite toppings.

Oreo cheesecake with berries.

This is one of my favorite recipes because it’s so easily adaptable. Try it with lots of different crusts and/or toppings!

Turtle cheesecake with brownie crust

I have tried similar recipes in the oven before, and I even made some in the oven while I was making some in the Instant Pot, just so I could see the difference in flavor and texture. The pressure cooking makes the filling much softer and lighter!

Food parties

During my first couple of weeks with the Instant Pot, I organized a few friends for a tamale party.

If you’ve never been to one, it’s basically a fun way to make a party out of something that can be pretty boring and tedious – making tamales.

Tamales are a popular dish around the holiday season, especially in the southwestern United States and Mexico. They are delicious concoctions of many types of fillings and masa (corn) dough stuffed into corn husks and steamed.

They are also a giant pain to make. Hence, a party.

Tamale party setup

Instead of spending hours doing all the work yourself, you get a few friends, everyone brings fillings and masa dough and corn husks (as well as a few bottles of wine and snacks to sustain you for a long afternoon), and everyone makes a bunch of tamales.

It’s a little bit of work, but everyone goes home with tons of tamales to eat (or freeze for later).

Tons of tamales. Literally.

As you can imagine, the Instant Pot made a ton of work a little easier.

The night before the party, I used my Instant Pot to make a vegetarian filling … literally a variety of vegetables and spices simmered for a few hours. Except that it literally took less than 20 minutes on the pressure setting. It took me longer to chop all of the veggies than it did for me to make a huge amount of delicious vegetarian filling.

Vegetarian tamale filling

I also made a chicken verde filling – literally a few boneless chicken thighs and a big can of salsa verde – that was ready in half an hour.

Saving the day at the tamale party

And, of course, tamales need to be cooked, too; and that usually takes 1 1/2 to 2 hours in standard steamer pot. But I actually brought my Instant Pot with me to the party (did I mention it’s very portable and has a handy handle on top?) and was able to steam a few batches right on the spot.

A full pot (I have a 6-quart) stuffed full of tamales steamed each one beautifully in 30-35 minutes. (Do a quick release afterwards.)

Weeknight Meals

Because the Instant Pot can make short work out of many dishes that would otherwise take hours and hours, it’s perfect for weeknight meals and holiday dinners.

For Christmas dinner I used it to make Brussels sprouts (in 3 minutes!); and for New Year’s, I made black-eyed peas and greens, a delicious Southern New Year’s Day tradition to bring good luck in the new year.

Usually it simmers in my slow cooker for 24 hours. This year, I made it in 35 minutes – from dried beans!

Black-eyed peas and greens for New Year’s Day.

Which brings me to another awesome feature of the Instant Pot – it’s multi-functionality! Although most recipes use the “pressure” setting, there is also an equally awesome “sauté” setting.

For example, before, when I made black-eyed peas in my crock pot, I would brown the onions and garlic and whatnot before adding them to the slow cooker.

With the Instant Pot, you can sauté the veggies, then add the rest of your ingredients and switch the setting to pressure to complete the dish! It saves tons of time in washing multiple pots and pans, not to mention that you are cooking the food in a fraction of the time.

Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes

The meatloaf and mashed potatoes recipe from I Wash, You Dry is definitely going to be a weeknight supper regular for me. It’s so easy!

Meatloaf and mashed potatoes AT THE SAME TIME!

You place the potatoes and chicken broth at the bottom, then put the wire rack over the potatoes and place the foil-wrapped meatloaf on top. You can even cook a vegetable side dish in there, too.

Meatloaf and potatoes dinner

With only 25 minutes on pressure, and quick release, you can have a delicious dinner on the table in no time.

Sous Vide Eggs and Meal Planning

I usually eat breakfast on the go, and it’s hard to do that and stay healthy sometimes. Luckily, the Instant Pot is also great  for meal prep.

This is another cool Instant Pot accessory … a silicone mold. The Amazon listing says it’s for baby food and egg bites, among other things, but I use it mostly for eggs.

Sous vide egg bites

The most important thing to remember here is to not fill the cups all the way. I made that mistake my first time, and the egg mixture expanded and almost popped out of the container!

Ah well. They still tasted good!

This is a really great way to prepare an easy and healthy breakfast.

You can customize the flavorings (and control the salt and fat, etc.), and make a whole pan of these in less than half an hour – 8 minutes of pressure cooking (which means it will take a moment to get to the appropriate pressure) and then 10 minutes to let the steam naturally release.

The result is a pan of delicious and super-fluffy egg bites you can eat all week long.

Coming soon

In addition to some fun and useful Instant Pot accessories, I treated myself to a new cookbook, too!

I really adore Indian food, and I can’t wait to experience how much easier it is to make at home with the Instant Pot!

Coming up soon on Starbright’s Kitchen!

Please stay tuned to Starbrightskitchen.com to see the creations from Urvashi Pitre’s Indian Instant Pot Cookbook!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Low Carb Chicken Tetrazzini – and a giveaway!

I really love the Del Real Foods company.

Two years ago, I participated in a recipe contest using Del Real products, and although I wasn’t one of the winners, they gave me a free trip to Los Angeles to film my very first recipe video! (If you haven’t checked out my awesome video, click here.)

In addition to Del Real just making great food  – authentic Mexican food that only requires heating – they are also a caring and thoughtful company. A few months after I filed the video, I began treatment for Stage 2 breast cancer, but Del Real Foods didn’t forget about me … they even sent me a huge box of free, delicious, easy-to-cook food! It was such a blessing to me to have healthy and tasty food that I didn’t have to spend precious energy cooking.

So in addition to being a great company that makes healthy food, they are also just good people.

Recently, I came home to this.

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Isn’t that a beautiful sight?

Yep, I knew right away that it was packed full of delicious Del Real food, but it also contained a cool lunch box, a sweet reusable shopping bag, a couple of water bottles and two awesome t-shirts. And the good people at Del Real Foods want to share the same box with one of my lucky readers!

But first, here is my favorite new recipe using Del Real Foods shredded chicken.

I first got the idea for this recipe from a video I saw on the Fit Men Cook Instagram page, where they used spaghetti squash and rotisserie chicken to create a low-carb (read: no pasta) chicken tetrazzini. I adapted this recipe to a) add Del Real pre-cooked shredded chicken, b) add red onion and “zoodles” (spiralized zucchini) to the spaghetti squash (for extra colors and flavors), and c) I cooked it all in little acorn squash bowls, just to make them adorable.

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Low-Carb Chicken Tetrazzini

(adapted from Fit Men Cook)

  • 1 package of Del Real shredded chicken;
  • Two acorn squashes, with the tops sliced off and the insides scooped out;
  • 1 spaghetti squash, sliced into rings
  • 1 zucchini, spiralized
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup grated cheddar or Monterey jack cheese
  • 3/4 cup milk (can substitute coconut milk or other milk)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 panko or breadcrumbs (optional)
  • 2 tbsp. diced rosemary
  • 2 tbsp. dried thyme
  • 2 tbsp. parsley
  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

First, slice the spaghetti squash into rings and remove the seeds inside. Lay each slice on a baking sheet (with a spray of olive oil) and bake for about 20 minutes at high heat. Let it cool; then you can easily remove the “spaghetti” on the inside.

(Note: unless you are using your spaghetti squash for a “boat” or something, this is probably the easiest and fastest way to prepare it. Save time and try it this way the next time you make spaghetti squash for anything!)

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Mix the squash, the zoodles, the herbs and half of the parmesan cheese, and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, sauté the garlic and onion with olive oil and let cook until the onions are translucent. Add the milk, the cheese, and the chicken broth and let simmer until it thickens slightly.

Blend the squash mixture with the milk mixture, then add in the shredded chicken. Then fill the acorn squashes (or mason jars), cover with more parmesan cheese (and optional breadcrumbs) and bake at 300 for about 20 minutes until the cheese and crumbs form a crust on top.

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Note: This mixture is quite tasty by itself and can be used as a healthy side dish as well as baked in a large casserole dish for a party or large dinner. I decided to use mason jars and squash, mostly so I could use the mason jars for an easy lunch, but this recipe is totally adaptable.

Pin or save the recipe card here:

chickentetrecipecard

Now, for the giveaway.

The Del Real Foods company has offered to let one of my lucky readers get this huge gift box full of food, t-shirts and water bottles, as well as this totally adorable lunch box and grocery bag. (I told you they were nice!)

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Here’s what the lucky winner will receive:

  • Two (2) Del Real Foods water bottles;
  • Two (2) Del Real Foods t-shirts (“Home is where the Tacos Are”);
  • One (1) Del Real Foods lunchbox with utensils;
  • One (1) Del Real Foods twine reusable grocery bag;
  • One variety pack of delicious Del Real Foods food products (actual products may vary)

(Note: when a winner is randomly selected, I will be contacting the winner for their mailing address. The box will be shipped to the winner by Del Real Foods.)

Click this link and enter as many options as you can to increase your chances of winning!

 

Mason Jar Salads and Mason Jar Dressings

These Mason jar salads are all the rage nowadays, and I am happy to say, I made these before they were cool.

Nothing to it, really, just get all of your favorite salad fixings together, plus a few mason jars. I like to use the wide-mouth pint jars (Ball and other companies even have them in pretty colors), and if you can obtain a few reusable plastic lids (like these), that would be even better.

mason jar salad

I generally like to keep it simple, so I make the same salad for every day. You can obviously change it up so you can have a different salad every day.

Once you have all of your supplies and ingredients, there are only two rules:

  1. Keep the dry stuff dry.
  2. Keep the wet stuff wet.

So, start with the dressing. Fill each jar with a tablespoon or two of your favorite or chosen dressing.

Next, add other wet salad ingredients: fresh tomatoes, legumes, fruits, beans or corn, pre-cooked (and pre-cooled) pasta, avocados, feta cheese, tofu, hardboiled eggs, etc.

Then try to put a “barrier” like chickpeas, quinoa, cucumbers or beets, but if you can’t create a barrier, just make sure the layers cover the whole jar.

Put your greens (lettuce, romaine, spinach, kale, etc.) at the top along with anything else that needs to stay dry, like tortilla crisps or crispy bacon bits.

That’s it!

Now you have premade, healthy meals that are ready to go all week.

beforenaftersalad

Mason Jar Dressings

OK, so these aren’t popular (yet, anyway) but they should be. You know that jar of strawberry jam or raspberry preserves in your fridge that you never use? The one that has just enough that you can’t use it for anything else? What about that one jar of mustard that only has a few teaspoons left? Do you have a container of yogurt that you need to use before it goes bad?

Oh yeah. We’re using up your fridge leftovers with this one.

First, take that almost-empty jar out of the fridge. Shake it around a little. Make sure it isn’t filled with toast crumbs from the last time you used it. The contents of this jar will be your binder.

Next, determine what flavors go well with that binder. Raspberry or strawberry (or other berries) go well with balsamic or dark vinegars. Mustard – particularly spicy mustard – is best accented with white or white wine vinegar. Then add fresh or dried herbs.

Here are a few ideas to mix it up:

  • Berry jam/jelly  +    Balsamic vinegar       +   fresh rosemary or basil = Balsamic Berry Dressing
  • Greek yogurt      +     White wine vinegar   +  fresh dill and lemon = Creamy Dill Dressing
  • Dijon mustard    +     White vinegar +  fresh or dried oregano = Herby Mustard Dressing
  • Pure Honey    +    Apple Cider vinegar  +  sriracha and lime = Spicy Honey Vinaigrette
  • Greek yogurt  + cilantro, lime, hot sauce + fresh, mashed avocado  = Baja Goddess Dressing
  • Creamy peanut butter + soy sauce, rice vinegar + cilantro, ginger = Peanut Ginger Dressing
  • Fresh hummus + white vinegar + feta cheese and fresh basil/herbs = Greek Hummus Dressing

Once you have established the flavors and the binder, simply add a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and put the lid on the mason jar and shake vigorously until completely blended.

Baja Goddess Dressing

Baja Goddess Dressing

Spicy Roasted Tomato Soup with Pupusa Dippers

This is my second year participating in the Del Real Foods food blogger recipe contest. Last year, I was lucky enough to have been selected by the company to make a video for my Chipotle Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe, even though I wasn’t a winner. It was so much fun!

(Check out my video and post about my awesome trip to Los Angeles here.)

Anyway, it didn’t take much for me to become a fan of Del Real Foods. Their products are all minimally processed – for example, chicken and pork that is marinated and fully cooked, but without all of the additives (and tons of salt) that you typically find in premade, frozen “convenience” foods.

This year, I hope I win the contest, instead of just making a video! I am a huge fan of pupusas (I’ve made my own before), and the Del Real brand pupusas are really delicious. Since a pupusa is basically a handheld, self-contained grilled cheese sandwich, I decided to do a Mexican-style play on the typical grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup combo.

If you can, try to use fresh tomatoes. You can use canned tomatoes if necessary, and it will still be delicious, but the extra sweetness that comes from a fresh tomato is a perfect compliment to the spices in the soup. And don’t be afraid of that whole jalapeno pepper — this soup is a little spicy, but it compliments the pupusas perfectly!

 

Spicy Roasted Tomato Soup with Pupusa Dippers

 

Spicy Roasted Tomato Soup with Pupusa Dippers

(Serves 5)

  • 10 fresh tomatoes (or two big cans of stewed tomatoes)
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 head of garlic, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped
  • 1 avocado
  • 2-3 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 cube of tomato chicken bouillon (Caldo de Tomate)
  • 1 package of Del Real Foods Pupusas (5 individual pupusas)
  • 2 tbsp. cumin
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 cups water
  • salt and pepper
  • Cotija cheese (for garnish)

Spicy Tomato Soup ingredients

First, begin with the fresh tomatoes and roast them whole in a broiler or over an open flame. (If at all possible, use fresh instead of canned tomatoes for the best flavor.)

Roast the tomatoes until the flesh starts to shrivel and blister, then set aside to cool.

Roasted tomatoes

While the tomatoes are cooling, sautee the jalapeno, onion, garlic and celery in a large pot, and cook for a few minutes until slightly soft. Then trim the stems off of the tomatoes and add to the pot.

 

Veggies for soup base

Next, add the spices, water and bouillon, and bring to a boil. Then cover and let boil gently for about 15 minutes, or until all of the vegetables are soft. While the soup is boiling, prepare the pupusas — it’s really easy, just cook them in a pan for a few minutes on each side.

Pupusas

When the soup is finished, use an immersion blender to blend all of the ingredients, and serve immediately with a hot pupusa, garnished with cotija cheese and avocado.

Spicy Roasted Tomato Soup with Pupusa Dippers

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tomato soup recipe card

Disclaimer: I was provided Del Real Foods products free of charge as part of the food blogger contest, but received no other compensation, financial or otherwise, for this post. The opinions expressed herein are my own.

Fresh finds at the new Ceviche House

This month, I got to check out San Diego’s newest and freshest spot. The Ceviche House in North Park combines a family atmosphere with fresh and fast food.

For the last four months, I’ve been on intense chemotherapy, so my doctors didn’t let me eat any raw fish or other foods that might present a greater risk of illness. I finally got the All-Clear to eat some, and I am so excited to be able to enjoy beautiful dishes like this again.

And it was perfect.

I got the Ensenada (yellowtail, watermelon, pomegranate seeds, microgreens, avocado, and chili-sesame oil) on a tostada — but you can get any of their menu items on a lettuce wrap or bowl if you want to skip the carbs. I was concerned that the chili-sesame oil might be too spicy (my mouth is still a little sensitive to spice after chemo), but it’s a perfect compliment to the sweetness of the watermelon and the saltiness of the fresh yellowtail. I could have eaten 2 or 3 of these!

ensenada tostada

And just look at how pretty it is! I’d never had ceviche without peppers and onions before, or with fruit, but the combination of flavors in this dish is amazing … I can see why it’s one of their most popular dishes.

I had a hard time deciding, because all of the options looks amazingly delicious. Tuna, cucumber and orange zest? Yes, please. Shrimp and mango? Totally.

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Owners Viviana and Juan Carlos make sure to procure only the best from sustainable sources like superstar seafood mongers Catalina Offshore Products. You can taste the quality in every piece of fish and produce.

acapulco ceviche

To show off their new store, The Ceviche House is giving an Acapulco Ceviche away to two lucky winners. Be sure to follow Starbright’s Kitchen and The Ceviche House for more chances to win:

ENTER CONTEST HERE:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/2f9e1bf95/?hh

Pan de Cazon

Pan de Cazon is a regional specialty of the Campeche region of Mexico; a region bordered by the Gulf of Mexico on one side and Guatemala on the other. As I’m sure you can imagine, the other regional specialties of the area include some amazing seafood dishes – I know that soon, want to try some recipes like Siete Barbas and seafood tamales.

I rarely get the chance to cook with great fish, and lately I’ve had a bunch of it from Catalina Offshore Products here in San Diego. These guys are incredible! I had an amazing filet of spiny dogfish shark, caught wild in Mexican waters. If you are unable to get a decent piece of shark, this recipe will also work with any white, flaky fish.

I based my recipe off of this one from El Cielo Foods, but mine isn’t quite as spicy. Instead of using whole habanero peppers, I seasoned mine with a really good hot sauce. Feel free to add more if you can handle more spice than I can.

 

pan de cazon

Pan de Cazon

  • 1-2 filets of shark or other white fish, chopped into 1″ pieces
  • 7-8 small corn tortillas, slightly crispy
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 sprig of fresh dill, chopped
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. California chile powder or chipotle powder
  • 1/2 tsp. habanero pepper hot sauce (I like El Yucateco)
  • olive oil for sauteeing
  • salt and pepper

In a small saucepan, heat the black beans with a little oil, and half of the cumin and chile powder, plus salt and pepper. Mash the beans slightly as they cook. Set on low heat to keep warm.

In another small saucepan, sautee the onion and garlic with oil and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the tomatoes with the rest of the cumin and chile powder. Mash the tomatoes slightly as they cook, and add the pieces of fish and the hot sauce to taste. Add the dill and half of the cilantro. Let simmer for about 5 minutes.

Assemble the pan de cazon by spreading the beans on a crispy tortilla, then putting another tortilla on top, then adding the shark and tomato mixture. Alternate the beans and the shark to make a tall stack, then serve warm with cilantro and fresh avocado.

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pan de cazon recipe card