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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Easy sourdough bread

Sourdough is one of my favorite types of bread ever, and I can’t believe it’s so easy!

If you don’t have your own sourdough starter, you can find instructions on how to make one here. But I got mine from a lady giving it away in a Facebook group post; and if you know anyone who makes their own bread, chances are very good that they have a sourdough starter to share with you.

It’s very simple: you start with this 8-oz jar of bubbly liquid. You can store it in the refrigerator, and once a week, you take it out and empty out half (4 oz.).

You can use this to give to a friend so they have starter, or you can use it for baking bread or a myriad of other sourdough things: muffins, biscuits, crackers, pizza dough, bread, English muffins, even sweet breads and muffins like blueberry or banana. Then you add 4 oz. of water and 4 oz. flour, and mix well. Now you have starter for next week.

sourdough starter

By the way, you can also keep your starter at room temperature and discard/feed it every day, but who has time for that?! That method is for people who have the time to bake a loaf of bread every day.

Here is a simple, quick bread baking method (no, really, this IS quick, most sourdough bread recipes require at least 12-24 hours for proofing and rising). You can make this in one evening after work or weekend morning/afternoon.

Easy Sourdough Bread

  • 4 3/4 cups bread flour*
  • 3 tbsp. white sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups sourdough starter
  • 2 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast (0.25 oz.)
  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 2 tbsp. softened butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp. water

First, combine 1 cup of the flour with the salt, sugar and yeast, and mix well. Add the wet ingredients (sourdough starter, milk and butter) and once fully incorporated, slowly add the rest of the flour.

Turn dough out onto a flour-covered surface and knead for 5-10 minutes, then put it back into the mixing bowl (add a little oil first to prevent sticking). Cover and let the dough rise for about 1 hour.

After about an hour, punch down the dough and form into loaves (you can use traditional rectangular bread loaf pans, or form the dough into a ball and bake it in a round cake or pie pan). Let rise another hour.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes, then sprinkle the egg wash (a large egg scrambled with 1 tbsp. water) on top of each loaf. Then bake another 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

sourdough bread

*Tip: You can totally use all-purpose flour for this recipe, and it will make a fine loaf of bread. But bread flour is much finer and softer, and will lead to a softer and better piece of bread.

There’s a great post to read about bread makers here.

Need more tips for your starter? Check out these tips and tricks on the King Arthur Flour blog.

Easy Holiday Favorites: Healthy Kale-Apple Slaw and Baked Mac ‘n’ Cheez

These are two of my favorite seasonal side dishes.

They’re easy to make, easy to transport, easy to reheat or make ahead. They’re perfect for holiday parties, potlucks, or just to make to accompany any seasonal meal.

Healthy Kale-Apple Salad

  • 2-3 red or Gala apples, grated or shredded
  • 1 bunch Lacinato kale, shredded
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp. whole grain mustard
  • 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp. sour cream

kale and apple salad

Whisk the lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, and sour cream, and coat the shredded kale and apples. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Keep chilled until ready to serve – up to overnight. You can even add extra crunch with some crushed walnuts.

Save this recipe card:

kale apple salad card

This next one isn’t quite so healthy, but it’s practically as easy. Don’t be psyched out by the white sauce if you’ve never made it before, either … it’s a cinch.

mac and cheez

Baked Mac ‘n’ Cheez

  • 1 lb. penne pasta
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1 lb. shredded cheddar and jack cheese
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 2 tbsp. herbed goat cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups crushed cheesy crackers
  • salt and pepper

Boil the penne pasta to al dente and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a white sauce by whisking together the butter and flour, and slowly adding milk until a thick sauce is formed. Add the goat cheese and shredded cheeses and stir until the cheese is fully incorporated.

Mix the cheese sauce with the cooked pasta and add the eggs. Pour into a baking dish, season with salt and pepper, and top with the crushed crackers. Bake covered for 20 minutes, then uncovered for another 10-20 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Save this recipe card:

baked mac card

 

Spicy Fall Quiche

I love all types of quiches … my mother used to make great ones when I was a kid. We were always busy during the week, but often on the weekends, she would wake us up with the smell of ham and mushroom quiche, or sometimes one with spicy sausages and spinach. They would always be stuffed with lots of delicious things, and topped with tons of melty cheese.

This is a great one using Autumn vegetables, and adding a little bit of spice.

browned delicata squash

I used a vegetarian soy-rizo for this recipe to keep it meat-free, but feel free to substitute real beef or pork chorizo if you prefer. Just make sure it’s fully cooked before you put it in the oven.

spicy fall quiche

Spicy Fall Quiche

(makes 2 quiches)

  • 2 deep dish pie crusts
  • 12 eggs
  • dash of whole milk
  • 1 lb. shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 delicata squash, sliced
  • 1 12-oz. package of soy chorizo
  • 1 lb. of cooked potatoes
  • 1/2 sliced mushrooms

Brown the slices of squash in a cast-iron skillet and set aside. Scramble the eggs and milk together, and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the chorizo and potatoes together until fully cooked, then split the mixture between the two pie crusts. Add the mushrooms and squash pieces, then fill each pie crust the rest of the way with the egg mixture. Top each pie with all of the cheese.

Bake covered for 30 minutes and uncovered for another 10 minutes, until the quiche is firm when a knife is put through the center. Serve warm.

Save this recipe card:

fall quiche recipe card

African Chicken Peanut Stew

It felt so good to be back in the kitchen this week! I’ve been out of commission the last few months due to chemotherapy, but I am feeling great and back in the saddle again – at least for now.

This time of year, regardless of your health, a thick and comforting soup is always perfect. But in the weeks after Thanksgiving we all start to daydream about food that wasn’t at one point the turkey or ham centerpiece of the holiday meal. I love turkey rice soup (and turkey noodle soup, etc.) as much as the next guy, but it’s time for something new.

And spicy.

This is really one of my favorite soups. It’s best if you start with a homemade chicken stock – as in, you get a chicken carcass (like one you have roasted or smoked), or even a few chicken parts, and boil it down – so you can get as much good chicken meat as well as broth. If you only have canned or packaged chicken stock on hand, add pieces of chicken as well – or substitute extra vegetables to fill it up. The rest of the items are probably in your pantry already, so it’s a great way to use up a few potatoes, sweet potatoes and carrots.

African chicken peanut stew

African Chicken Peanut Stew

  • 2 quarts of good chicken stock (with meat pieces)
  • 1 8-oz jar of chunky natural peanut butter
  • 1 can of roasted, diced tomatoes
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 2-3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2-3 red potatoes, diced
  • 2-3 sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and diced
  • 2 cups roasted peanuts
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. cumin
  • salt and pepper
  • dash of lemon juice or white vinegar
  • 3 tbsp. sriracha or fermented hot sauce (homemade if possible)

Start by sauteeing the shallot and hot sauce in the olive oil over medium-high heat, then add the carrots and diced potatoes. Add cumin and salt and pepper. Once the vegetables are coated and starting to cook, add the can of tomatoes and the chicken meat and stock.

Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked. Slowly stir in the peanut butter (you may have to mix it first in the jar) and about half of the roasted peanuts. Taste to make sure you don’t need to add more salt, pepper, or cumin, and adjust accordingly.

Add a dash of lemon juice or vinegar to the pot as you turn off the heat. Garnish with fresh cilantro and whole peanuts. Serve immediately.

Save the recipe card for this recipe:

APCS recipe card

Curried Cauliflower Soup

I love a good soup, and I love a versatile dish. This amazing soup can be ready in 30 minutes, and it’s delicious served at any temperature. Right now, it’s a muggy 80 degrees in southern California, but my CSA box hasn’t gotten the message … the produce sections everywhere are full of cauliflower and other fall-like vegetables … so I ate this cold, too! This is also a super-healthy recipe, and will be a big hit during the October Unprocessed challenge next month.

For just a few cheap ingredients (either fresh, or probably in your pantry), you can have a simple filling, yummy, spicy soup. Customize it any way you like: I made mine extra spicy, and I used smoked chicken stock (homemade of course), but if you don’t like spicy foods, you can use a lighter curry paste or less of it than I did … and if you’re vegetarian or vegan, you can use vegetable stock.

Curried Cauliflower Soup

  • 1 large head of fresh cauliflower
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 head garlic, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced (optional)
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • 1 quart of chicken stock (or use vegetable stock to keep vegetarian/vegan)
  • 1 tablespoon ginger paste
  • 1/2 cup Thai curry paste, any type (I used red)*
  • 1/2 cup ghee or butter (or olive oil to keep it vegan)

First, dice the vegetables and saute them in the ghee for a few minutes, and add the Thai curry paste and ginger. Cover with stock and bring to a boil. Let boil for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is tender.

curried cauliflower soupRemove from heat and, using an immersion blender, puree the ingredients. Add the coconut milk (be sure to shake the can first), and then taste and season accordingly.

* Depending on how spicy your curry paste is, you might want to add more broth or more salt. I like mine spicy, so I use an authentic red curry paste. If you don’t like it hot, use less than a tablespoon, or use a milder paste. For this brand (see below) a tablespoon is more than enough to fully flavor an entire pot of soup.

red curry paste

Sprinkle with a bit of chili powder on top and serve with some good bread. It will be spicy, but it’s worth it.

curried cauliflower soup

Try your leftovers chilled the next day. 🙂
curry cauliflower soup recipe card

Easy squash and vegetable soup (perfect for the holidays)

This is a great, easy soup that is perfect for Thanksgiving or other family dinners. It’s vegetarian (although it can be adapted to include chicken or meat stock), and it’s great for an appetizer or as part of your holiday meal.

As usual when cooking with butternut squash (or any squash or gourd that has a very hard outer shell), I made the process easier on myself by cutting the giant squash into a few manageable chunks, then I dry-roasted it on my grill until the peel was charred. Let it cool down until you can handle it with your bare (clean) hands, and it’s super-easy to peel the rind off and cut up the sweet squash inside.

Butternut squash and vegetable soup

Easy Squash and Vegetable Soup

  • about 2 lbs of butternut squash, roasted, peeled and chopped
  • one container (about 14 oz.) soft tofu, chopped
  • one large onion, diced
  • 2-3 carrots, diced
  • 2-3 small red potatoes, diced
  • 3 heads garlic, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. dried sage
  • 1 tbsp. paprika
  • 1 tbsp. ginger
  • 1 tbsp. cumin
  • 1 quart vegetable stock
  • 1 bottle of good beer
  • salt and pepper
  • crumbly feta cheese or blue cheese, for serving

Feel free to clean out your fridge when picking the vegetables to use … I just used the few items I had on hand, but a few stalks of celery, maybe sweet potato, some fresh fennel, or some fresh leek(s), would be a great addition to this recipe.

I simply added all of the ingredients (no pre-cooking needed except for the butternut squash), and cooked everything together in my slow cooker overnight. Cook it for at least 6 hours on the low setting, but the longer you cook it, the more the flavors will develop. Then puree the entire contents of the pot with your trusty immersion blender, taste the soup, add more spices if necessary, and serve.