Tag Archives: pressure cooker

Product Review: Instant Pot Duo Mini 3-Quart 7-in-1

When I first purchased an Instant Pot last year, I had no idea how popular the brand was. I selected it because of its stainless steel pot because most electric multi-cookers have coated aluminum pots, and inevitably that coating flakes off and into my food. Ugh! Soon the enthusiasts  (AKA Instant Potheads) had sucked me into their cult. There are hundreds of online groups and blogs devoted to this wonder appliance. Sales of Instant Pot skyrocketed. Soon supply fell behind demand and waiting lists developed. Wow. What had I gotten into?

IPs

I’m already a pressure cooker veteran (I now own six! Don’t judge me. :-P) and won’t give up my reliable stovetop models, but I quickly saw why the Instant Pot was and is popular. Its safety features and ease of operation boost the confidence of even the non-cooks in its cult following. I suspect Instant Pots are making a dent in the fast food industry’s profits because Potheads stay home now and cook for their families. And brag about it!

If you have a 6 quart Instant Pot, the most popular size, there are a few things you need to know about the 3 quart Mini. First, obviously, is size. The Mini has a smaller footprint and capacity. You can’t cook a large chicken, turkey breast, or ham in it. But you can cook poultry parts or a small ham. It’s perfect for making side dishes, like beans, vegetables, or grains. If you want boiled eggs, the Mini does the job and is ideal for cooking only a few.

Second, the wattage. The Mini uses less power than its big sister, yet I saw no significant cooking time difference with the exception of brown rice. Brown rice needed 28 minutes followed by at least 10 minutes natural pressure release. My 6 quart Instant Pot does the job in 22 minutes followed by natural pressure release. My stovetop pressure cooker takes 15 (and at least 10 minutes natural pressure release), so there is a difference. Just remember brown rice takes at least 50 minutes the conventional way. I also needed additional time for cooking dried beans. My anasazi beans take 30 minutes (plus natural drop in pressure) from dry to done but were too firm after 30 minutes in the Mini. However, most foods cook exactly the same as in the larger Instant Pot.

Finally, accessories that fit your 6-quart will not fit the Mini. The Mini comes with its own trivet, though, as well as the rice cup, spoon, and ladle. And it has a good cookbook and instruction manual. I expect Instant Pot to introduce a new line of baskets, glass lids, and racks for the smaller size Mini, though.

Bottom line: If you don’t own an Instant Pot and are undecided, buy the Mini. If you fall in love with the Instant Pot, you can always add a larger Instant Pot later and keep the Mini for side dishes. If you live alone or cook mainly for a couple, this Mini limits you to smaller pots of food but should work for you. If you have an RV, this Mini is the perfect size to travel with.

Or if you’re like me and crazy about cooking, buy both the Mini and the 6-quart. And the 8-quart, too. You, too, can join the Instant Potheads subculture!

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Converting Recipes for Pressure Cooking

Thousands of people received an electric programmable pressure cooker for gifts during the holidays, or purchased one during the black Friday sales. Dozens of social media groups offer recipe exchanges and tips. One frequent question that I see on a daily basis is “How do I convert my slow cooker recipe for the _________(insert brand name of electric pressure cooker)?”

As a veteran pressure cooker cook, I feel qualified to address this question. I hope my recommendations help you. Here’s an example: A favorite slow cooker recipe of ours is slow cooker chili, based on Hurst’s HamBeens brand Slow Cooker Chili. I substitute ground turkey for the beef and Rotel for the diced tomatoes. I also use 1 quart chicken broth and 3 pints water instead of using all water, but otherwise I follow the recipe on the package.
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First I turned on the pot and browned the onion and turkey. Then I added all other ingredients and sealed the pot. I cooked the recipe on high pressure for 40 minutes, followed by natural release. The beans were tender yet not too mushy, and the chili was delicious. However, the finished product was a little soupy for our preference.
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However, it’s always better to err on the side of caution (that is, too much liquid) when cooking dried beans. Also, reheating the leftover chili evaporated any excess moisture. Therefore, the only conversion I suggest is cooking time. Each pot differs in buttons and settings, so you’ll have to consult your own manufacturer’s manual or website to know how to set high pressure for 40 minutes.

Where did I get the 40 minutes? I consulted the cooking chart for dried beans (without soaking) and used that time. Since beans take the longest cooking time, that’s what you should choose. If you’re a Crockpot veteran, you already know there’s a range of cooking time when slow cooking. There’s also a range with pressure cooking, so if I tell you 40 minutes and someone else tells you an hour, cook for the minimum time. It’s easy to check for doneness and bring the pot back to pressure to add cooking time. The contents are already hot, which means your pot returns to pressure quickly. 
Note: If you’re using a stovetop pressure cooker, reduce cooking time to 35 minutes followed by natural release. The electric models take a tad longer to cook.
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Safety first. The new cookers are the safest yet, but you have to follow the rules. Don’t overfill (2/3 pot for most dishes, 1/2 pot for bean dishes) and always use liquid. Even the shortest cooking time requires a minimum amount of liquid to reach pressure. Read your manual. If instructions are missing, either visit the manufacturer’s site or contact them.

Final word of advice: Cook! Don’t leave your new cooker in a box in a closet. Use it. Experience is the best teacher. Also, join a group or two on Facebook and read through their posts. You’ll find answers to your questions, and you’ll learn there is no one way to cook a dish. 

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Filed under beans, Chili and Stew, Healthful Eating, kitchen equipment

HASTY TASTY STEEL-CUT OATS

I like my grains whole and my food fiber high, so I decided to try steel cut oats for my morning oatmeal. Steel cut oats take a long time to cook. There are even recipes for slow cooking them overnight so they’re ready to eat the next morning. That isn’t my idea of a Hasty Tasty Meal.

Then I read an article about pressure cooking steel cut oats. I’ve been a pressure cooker enthusiast since the early 1970s, so this article got my attention. Now I eat steel cut oats for breakfast, and my oatmeal cooks in minutes. From start to finish, my oatmeal is ready in half the time it would take to cook stovetop, and I don’t have to stand over the pot and stir.

Here’s my recipe for a single bowl of oatmeal. (Note: Do NOT use the directions on the box of steel

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cut oats. You need only a 1:3 oats/water ratio when cooking under pressure because steam is trapped and there’s no evaporation.)

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup steel cut oats
  • 3/4 cup water
  • salt to taste
  • 1 cup water for the pressure cooker

Directions:

  1. Add 1 cup water to the pressure cooker pot.
  2. In a microwave-oven-safe bowl (my old Corelle works just fine), combine steel cut oats, water, and salt. 
  3. Place bowl on a rack or trivet (Most pressure cookers have either a trivet or steaming basket accessory you can use to keep the bowl above the water)
  4. According to your manufacturer’s instructions, close the lid and bring to pressure. After it reaches pressure, lower heat just to maintain pressure and time for 5 minutes. (If using an electric model, select 8* minutes on the timer)
  5. Allow pressure to drop naturally (approximately 15 minutes).
  6. Quick-release remaining pressure according to your pot’s manufacturer’s instructions, carefully remove the lid, and then lift the bowl from inside the pot (I use silicone mittens for this as the bowl will be hot).
  7. Stir the oatmeal until thickened. 
  8. Sweeten as desired. Enjoy!

To make 4 servings, use the pressure cooker pot and combine 1 cup oats with 3 cups water. Add 1/4 tsp. salt. Also, add a teaspoon of butter, if desired. Follow the same time and pressure as for one serving. Stir and then serve directly from the pot. Makes 4 one-cup servings.

For creamier grits, cook 12-15 minutes under pressure. Allow pressure to drop on its own. It’s not faster than traditional methods, but it’s easier because you don’t have to babysit the pan. 

*The pressure is slightly higher in stovetop pressure cookers, which is why I suggest a longer cook time for electric models.

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Perfect Carrots

Carrots are a root vegetable. Carrots are nutritious, delicious, and inexpensive (even the organic ones). They typically are colored orange and contain carotenes (B, A, Z), lutein, and zeaxanthin. Carrots are rich in fiber, too.

If you think carrots are tasteless, perhaps you’ve been served carrots boiled to death in water. My mother-in-law says my carrots are the best, better than any restaurant. What’s earned me such high praise? Want to know my secret? 

Two rules: One, buy good carrots. Pass up those baby cut carrots and buy whole organic carrots. (Bunny Love is available where I shop, and they are organic) Second, don’t let your carrots touch water while cooking

Three methods I use to cook carrots, depending on time restraints: One, I steam over low heat in my waterless cookware (KitchenCraft, 360 Cookware by Americraft, or similar brands). No water. Just gentle, slow cooking. Takes about twenty minutes. Two, pressure cook for four minutes under pressure in a basket above the water. Do not submerge carrots in water! Water leaches out flavor and nutrients. Occasionally, I stir-fry carrots with other vegetables in very little oil in a hot skillet.

Preparing carrots takes only a little time. Peel or scrub, depending on your preference. I let appearance be my guide. If the peels look fairly clean, I scrub them with a vegetable brush and leave them on. If not, I peel. 

Slice in similar size pieces for even cooking. I like cutting diagonally but any slice style works. The smaller the size, the shorter the cooking time. 

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Bean Soup under Pressure

Who says you have to presoak beans and then slow cook them half a day to have delicious bean soup? That’s not the hasty tasty meals way. You can have bean soup in about an hour if you use your pressure cooker. Also, if you use a small bean (navy, Anasazi, pink, etc) there’s no need to soak first.

Here’s my recipe, inspired by my friend Beverly Summitt who first introduced me to navy bean soup years ago, for bean soup in a pressure cooker.

RECIPE

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Ingredients:

  • 1 pound navy beans, rinsed
  • ¼ pound smoked pork or ham
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 carrot, shredded or thinly sliced
  • 1 potato, peeled and diced
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 Tbsp. salt (I use pink Himalayan)
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper (or more if you like a little heat)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • nonstick cooking spray

Directions:

  1. Spray bottom of pressure cooker pot with nonstick cooking spray and place over burner set to medium heat.
  2. Saute onions, celery, carrot, and potato.
  3. Stir in garlic and pork.
  4. Add beans, salt, pepper, bay leaf, and water. Close lid.
  5. Bring to pressure. (It takes a while to bring ½ gallon of water to a boil, so be patient)
  6. Once indicator jiggles, time for 40 minutes for a 10 psi cooker or 35 minutes for a 15 psi cooker.*
  7. When time is up, remove pot from the burner and allow the pressure to drop on its own. This can take about 15 minutes.
  8. Carefully open pressure cooker, remove bay leave, and serve. For extra thick soup, blend or mash two cups of the soup mixture and stir it back in.

*Check your manufacturer’s information for pressure rating. Most cookers are 15 psi.

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Trisha’s Weight Management Tips

I enjoy Trisha Yearwood’s Southern Kitchen. I identify with a woman who loves Southern cuisine yet must watch her waistline. Recently, she offered a few tips for staying on track that I’ve adapted in my own Southern kitchen. 

  1. Chicken: She cooks 4-5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a pressure cooker for 15 minutes. Then she cubes the chicken and refrigerates in a covered bowl. Throughout the next 4-5 days she can take cooked chicken from her bowl to use in a variety of dishes such as Caesar salads, chicken salad, casseroles, soups, etc.
  2. Sweet Potatoes: These nutritional powerhouses are your best buy at the produce stand. Wash thoroughly. She pricks the skins and then wraps them in foil. Bake 4 at a time in a 350° oven for 45 minutes. After they’re baked and cooled, she keeps them in the refrigerator. Then she can grab one for a quick meal or dish, such as her whipped sweet potatoes.
  3. Greek Yogurt: (Or strain regular yogurt to remove the liquid whey) Trisha uses greek yogurt as a substitute for sour cream. It’s thick, creamy, and lower in fat and calories than sour cream. Or eat it with fruit for a snack or dessert.

The number one tip for any weight management plan is BE PREPARED. If you stock your fridge with washed and ready to eat salad greens, baked sweet potatoes, and cooked chicken breast meat, you’re ready for a healthful meal. On the go? Arm yourself with healthy snacks. You don’t have to be a grammy-award-winning celebrity to have a sensible eating plan. You don’t need a celebrity’s kitchen to prepare your own meals. These are tips we all can use.

So what foods do you cook ahead and keep on hand for hasty tasty meals?

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Share the Pot

(No, no, no. This isn’t a post about passing around a marijuana joint. This is a food blog, remember? LOL)

When preparing your dinner, especially a large meal for entertaining, minimize your clean up by cooking foods with similar cooking times together. For instance, I often steam broccoli in the skillet with my salmon fillet.

The key is similar cooking time. You can control cooking time by the sizes of your food. For instance, a whole potato takes much longer to cook through than a diced potato.

Today I served green beans and carrots as my two sides. I prepped the green beans and placed them in the bottom of my pressure cooker pot, along with the recommended amount of water. Then I added my rack and basket. I keep my carrots above the liquid yet in the same pot. (I season each vegetable separately)

After bringing my pressure cooker to pressure, I timed for eight minutes, quick-released the pressure, and served. (Cooking time varies depending on your pressure cooker. Mine is 10 psi. Some are 15 psi.) If you don’t use a pressure cooker, you can still share the pot. Just triple your cooking time.

One pot to wash, two vegetables to serve.

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Filed under cooking, Green Beans, Healthful Eating, Vegetables