You know how they say you’re not supposed to bank on the person you choose to marry actually changing at all to fit your liking better? That you should never expect to be able to mold or form that person to become the person you think they could be? We were talking about this over our favorite BBQ chicken thighs from the Instant Pot the other night…
My husband might disagree.
In the nearly 13 fated years we’ve been married, I think we would both agree that we’ve changed each other, and almost always for the better.
And believe me – he was a real fixer upper.
I’m Not Being Mean!
Promise. I’m quoting his exact words.
Here’s the story:
We were young college students in the heyday of “rebates.” Remember when you could get almost anything “free after rebate” without trying very hard? (Ok, maybe you still can, but I don’t get out much, and I hate shopping.)
Anyway, we had purchased a number of items with rebates during a weekend visit to his parents’ house, and we set to work clipping the UPCs, filling out forms, and licking and sticking envelopes. (I suppose it dates me that we clipped with actual scissors we had to hold in our hands, filled out forms with actual pens, and actually licked envelopes with our tongues instead of just doing it all from my phone on the way home from the store. Sigh…)
We got all our mail ready to go and I asked him to grab some stamps.
He was gone for a while.
When he returned, he had a bit of a sheepish look on his face.
It turned out that in the home he had lived in pretty much his entire life, he had no idea where the stamps were.
Head shaking in disgust, he delivered the quote that I’ve teased him about mercilessly for a decade and a half:
I’m a real fixer upper, dear.
See? I’m not being mean. He said it himself.
Check out the interview I did with him on his real food transformation…that took TEN years.
What Would You Be Like without Your Spouse?
If you’re married, I guarantee you have changed one another over the years.
We talk sometimes about what life would be like for my husband had we never met, never gotten married. I’d get more sleep, he quips (which is true), but he also wonders what he’d eat. Like many of us, he grew up on Stouffer’s lasagna, Hamburger Helper, PB&J sandwiches and Little Debbies for lunch. If, say, he was still a bachelor, what would he eat? I know it wouldn’t be anything as awesome as this breakfast he served me last week that I had to snap for Instagram:
I know, right?!? Amazing!
That’s sliced and fried potatoes, eggs, prosciutto, fresh cilantro and halved cherry tomatoes. I felt like a queen.
The man has learned his way around the kitchen a bit, more so in the last year after he left the corporate world behind and joined the family business. Since I boiled him slowly, his palate has also changed to appreciate so many more foods than he ever used to.
Breakfast and a few dinners like tacos, spaghetti, and Dad’s Cheeseburger Helper were really the only man-made meal options in his repertoire, though, until I challenged him to learn the Instant Pot because I wanted to write a post about how easy it was.
So…Is It Easy?
The guy’s assessment? I give you another quote:
And my assessment? Being able to delegate some meal prep under the guise of a challenge with a cool tool that even gamifies dinner for him?
This was a very good brainstorm.
We chose meals that fit certain criteria:
- Flavors he would like
- Not tooooo many ingredients
- Uncomplicated ingredients and prep
- Because he was doing a Whole30 at the time, they’re all grain-free, dairy-free and sans legumes
He really did make them all. This isn’t just another “round-up” of links my blogger buddies have sent me. They are field tested!
In general, I would send him a few possible recipes via email and he would choose one for the next night. Then I would read the instructions through the eyes of a rookie cook and send him my rewrites, including where to find things (“the jar in the door of the fridge” or “the second shelf in the basement”) and how to cut corners.
He would pull it all up on his tablet, use his fancy tablet stand/mount and get busy. He liked to joke, “These instructions are amazing, it’s like they’re written just for me!” (I’ll share all my easy shortcuts in this post but spare you where to find the ingredients!)
That stand in the photo, by the way, which is shown upright on the counter, also attaches to the side of the cupboard above our sink and serves as a bib dry rack. Just sayin’. #notjustfortech
He did say that he wished I had inputted the recipes into Real Plans, an incredibly intuitive meal planning software created by our friends Emily and Antony. Hubby has used their interface before and is first very tech-geeky impressed by how clean the code is (and I know you’re all running to check THAT out right now!), but also he loves how practical and user-friendly it is. The ingredients stay on the screen as you scroll through each instruction, rather than going up and down in your wife’s email or random-blogger’s-site.
You’re Just *7 Days* Away From Easier Meals with Your Instant Pot
Whether you have a few fav meals in your Instant Pot or still aren’t using it regularly yet, I can show you the secrets to SAVE time (and money) with my favorite appliance!
May I send you my best hacks to maximize my fav appliance so you can spend more time with your family AND nourish them well?
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Real Plans, by the way, would allow me to input my own recipes OR alter any of the 100+ slow cooker recipes already loaded into the system so they would work with the Instant Pot – more on how I adapt slow cooker recipes for the pressure cooker in a future post in a few months! Real Plans can also learn your preferences and just plan meals for you, which is amazing for those who feel like they always #fail at meal planning or grocery lists…you gotta check it out. We also have the NomNom Paleo upgrade, so we can instantly adapt Michelle’s great Instant Pot recipes and Whole30 approved stuff (one is included on this list)!
When I posted the recipes that I had to completely adapt/rewrite, you get the benefit of all my shortcuts and my answer-all-your-FAQs-before-you-ask-them style. One reader even emailed this:
Dinner Prep Gamification?
My spellcheck tells me “gamification” is not a word, but I’m sure it’s destined to be. It’s apparently how you get folks in their 20s, 30s and 40s (especially guys?) to get excited about doing things, including learning to play an instrument, losing weight, and making dinner.
To gamify is to attach a score or competition or levels or rewards to what you’re doing…but in our family, with the Instant Pot, it just looks sounds like this:
That’s the sound effect an Instant Pot makes when you open and close it. Ha! Why I recorded a noise with my kids’ music playing in the background, I’ll never know. Apparently I’m totally immune to noticing it anymore…
Our kids hear it and cry out, “Daddy! Did you win? Did you win? You won! Good job, Dad!” Hubby feels like he got points for cooking, and the Instant Pot is their new favorite toy.
And now, we present, with a sheepish grin on my husband’s face –
10 Recipes for the Instant Pot That ANYONE Can Make Successfully!
1. Easy Whole Chicken in the Instant Pot
We started with: this recipe
Changes made: The only change we made was to skip the broth and just use water (because it will become delicious broth, so why double-do that process!).
An even better way: But if you want to keep it even simpler, just follow my basic instructions here and use the spices in the roast chicken post if you want to change up the flavors. So easy, we all played outside in the snow while this was cooking.
Note the awesome 80s ski suit…free from my aunt when she finally gave up downhill skiing at in her late 70s. Oh yes, people…I be humble. And teal!
Bonus! Toss the bones back in the Instant Pot to make homemade chicken stock in a fraction of the time.
2. Lemon Chicken Curry
This chicken dish was one that we adapted from a slow cooker recipe, and it’s super super simple. You could serve it over rice (we did for the kids) or with a bunch of steamed or sautéed veggies (we did both for ourselves to stay grain-free and keto friendly).
3. Nom Nom Paleo’s Mexican Beef (with pork)
When I went through the dozens of recipes I found, I knew I needed certain meats. So I picked up some at the store, but I didn’t always remember which recipes needed them. Early on in the process, I sent hubby 3 pork recipes that he could make with the pork butt roast I bought, and he chose the Mexican one (you’ll notice that theme) even though it was a beef recipe. I knew we could use pork and it would be great!
We started with: this one from Nom Nom Paleo
Changes we made: It’s already an Instant Pot recipe, so we didn’t do much. We used whatever salsa we had on hand rather than fire-roasted, regular white cooking onions instead of purple like the photos, skipped the fish sauce because we don’t stock it (that would bring the flavor to a new level of “umami,” but we’re pretty simple people and loved it anyway!), and of course – we used pork instead of beef. Hubby cut up the roast into 1-inch pieces and it cooked super fast! I’m pretty sure we even did the quick release to see if it was done because we were in a hurry to eat.
The leftovers were hard to come by!
4. Smoky Mexican Chicken Soup
We started with: this chicken tortilla soup recipe (which is offline today, hopefully it comes back!)
Changes we made: a lot! We swapped veggies, adjusted the seasoning, and rewrote the Instant Pot part, so I reposted it – plus we thought it shouldn’t be called “tortilla” soup when there aren’t any tortillas or garnishes of tortillas in it. It’s a Whole30 compliant, Paleo, keto soup we called Smoky Mexican Chicken Soup (if you’re counting, that’s already the second Mexi-meal hubby chose.)
5. Pork Vindaloo from the Bitten Word
I’m pretty sure we used the pork butt roast that I had bought with this in the shadowy areas of my mind for Nom Nom’s Mexican dish, and I was thinking this one called for boneless ribs – so I bought some and then couldn’t find a recipe I liked for them again. Ha!
So when I had about 11 minutes to get dinner in the Instant Pot the night we were rushing off to do our taxes and leaving the grandparents with the kids, in went half a Costco-sized package of country style boneless ribs! Luckily that worked out just great, and I took a ton of shortcuts on the recipe too.
We started with: this pressure cooker pork vindaloo
Changes we made: The recipe isn’t written for the IP, and with my rush to get it all in the pot before I had to be out the door, I definitely cut every possible corner. We’ll call this “the lazy man’s way:”
- I did not brown half the meat, remove, and brown the other half. I threw it all in and it browned a tiny bit while other ingredients were being madly thrown on top. It tasted great anyway!
- I used dried minced onion and dried minced garlic instead of fresh.
- I skipped the flour and sugar altogether to keep it Whole30 compliant. Didn’t miss them.
- I set the Instant Pot to the “meat/stew” button, which defaults to 35 minutes on high pressure. The original recipe, written for a stovetop pressure cooker, called for 30 minutes at high pressure but from what I read the IP takes about 5 minutes longer. Natural pressure release.
- We served over rice for the in-laws and kids and with extra veggies for us (we love shredded and sautéed cabbage as a faux “noodle” of sorts and mix them up with red peppers, onions, and mushrooms. Divine!)
- There was quite a bit of sauce/juice left over, so when we ran out of pork I believe the kids had a Saturday lunch side of “Vindaloo rice” – reheating leftover rice with all the yummy flavor from the pork juices.
You may have noticed I made this one. I have no doubt my husband would have done marvelously, but he’s not a multi-tasker. We would not have been on time!
6. BBQ Boneless Pork Ribs in the Instant Pot
Since I so rashly purchased meat without a purpose, not only did I use the wrong meat in the recipe above (but successfully!!), I had 2.5 pounds or so that I needed to use in another recipe, and I just wasn’t finding anything I loved.
The leftovers from my huge package of ribs had to go somewhere! This BBQ was inspired by a few others but I had to change so much – it’s really hard to find a BBQ recipe without sweetener, especially for a niche as small as “Instant Pot recipes.“
I created a new BBQ Boneless Pork Rib recipe and it was a huge hit. In fact, we were still making “BBQ Pork Rice” over Easter weekend when my parents visited with all the extra juices we created! Yumminess.
And truly so easy. I’m thinking of taking the ingredients with us next week and putting the IP to work in a hotel room as we enjoy swimming in the pool, a mini spring break one-nighter vacay. Anyone ever done that with an Instant Pot? I will let you know how it goes!!!
7. Pulled Chicken Taco Meat
Yep, more Mexican.
This was a rare last-moment switch up of the meal plan. It wasn’t one I could delegate, so when this taco chicken meat popped up on Instagram midday, I jumped on it. Oh my goodness, I thought, That’s just the meat I was going to use tonight anyway. I have all those ingredients…wonder if I could switch?
It may have been totally selfish because I could keep working while hubby took one for the team and tested the recipe for the blog. He did great! Everyone loved it, and as usual, we were fighting (lovingly) over who would get the leftovers at lunch.
We started with: Live Simply’s Crock Pot Pulled Chicken Taco Meat
Changes we made:
- I told him to skip the rubbing; he still did it
- He needed some advice on how to cut off the skin, so the wife came in for the assist – but no biggie.
- We used 1/4 c. lime juice and 1/2 c. homemade chicken broth – I think I’d skip the lime juice and add it fresh after cooking because you really couldn’t taste it anyway.
- We used 7 chicken thighs and cooked for 15 mins. at high pressure – the poultry button. We allowed for natural release because we were busy with the rest of the meal. I bet it would be done with quick release too though! (Then you just pull the bones out and make stock from those after dinner, by the way.)
And I made Live Simply’s cilantro lime coleslaw for it the next day for the adult’s lunch. That’s how it was originally presented on Instagram, and although mine wasn’t nearly as pretty as Kristin’s, it was absolutely delicious!
8. Chicken Cacciatore (Sorta)
I made enough changes to this one that I almost reposted it as a new recipe, but I hadn’t taken any good pictures of the end result.
We started with: This recipe for a regular pressure cooker
There’s his nifty table stand again, by the way.
Changes we made:
- 2-4 Tbs. olive oil or cooking fat
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 bell pepper – any combination of green or colored – diced
- 1 8-10 oz package mushrooms, sliced or diced (diced is more kid-friendly)
- 1/2 c. chicken stock
- 3-4 lbs. chicken breasts or thighs (this might be between 5-10 pieces depending on the size of your meat)
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- pepper to taste
- 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
- 4 c. crushed tomatoes (2 15-oz. cans; I used a quart of home-canned diced and pureed it)
- 6 oz. can tomato paste
- Always start your recipes by crushing the garlic – it will release healthful properties as it sits once crushed.
- Prep at least most of the diced veggies – remember that there’s no “low saute” on an Instant Pot!
- Turn your IP to “sauté” and heat the oil until shimmering.
- Sauté the onions, peppers and mushrooms.
- Add the garlic last for just a hot minute.
- Stir in the broth and boil for 2-3 minutes, stirring to scrape up browned yummy-ness on the bottom. (You’re still on the “Sauté” setting.)
- Set the chicken on top.
- Season with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning.
- If you only have diced tomatoes (or whole) puree them briefly with an immersion blender.
- Pour the tomatoes over the chicken. No need to stir. Scoop the tomato paste out right on top.
- Press the cancel button to turn off “Saute.”
- Lock the lid in place. Check that the valve is set to “Sealing.”
- Press the “Poultry” button and leave the default 15 minutes.
- It will take about 15-20 minutes for the IP to come up to pressure to begin the 15-minute countdown.
- Allow the pressure to come down naturally for at least 5 minutes. Release any remaining pressure and check the chicken for doneness. More chicken will take longer to cook. If any parts are still pink, lock the lid back in and press “Poultry” again, but adjust the time down to 5 minutes. You can use quick release after that and check the chicken again.
- Serve over pasta, rice, or sauteed shredded cabbage. We like to saute cabbage, onions and red peppers, mmmmm…
- You’ll have a lot of sauce left over…we served it over noodles for the kids if I remember right.
I hired my 7-year-old to practice her sharp knife skills from the Kids Cook Real Food eCourse to cut up all the mushrooms:
Trust me, it was yummy – so yummy I guess I didn’t even snap a single shot! Check out this video if your kids to learn some knife skills?
9. Spicy Chicken Curry in Red Sauce
This is a slow cooker recipe that we’ve enjoyed before, and I was just sure it could be made in the Instant Pot the first time I tried it. Luckily, I was right, since my certainty was mostly because I’d forgotten to start the slow cooker and it just had to work!!
We started with this freezer-to-slow-cooker chicken recipe (the second one down in the post) and these are the instructions to adapt the recipe for the Instant Pot.
10. His Mom’s Pepper Steak Recipe
The very last one hubby has made, ironically, is one of the first meals I made for him after we got married. It was a favorite from his childhood, originally made in a pressure cooker. I adapted it for real food and a regular long cook on the stovetop for my Better Than a Box cookbook, and now we’ve put it in the IP to bring it full circle! We still use the onions, not the dry onion soup mix though.
We started with: This pepper steak recipe for the stovetop
Changes we made: All the ingredients remained the same as did the method, but we just used the meat/stew button and a natural release. That takes about 20 minutes to get to pressure, 30 minutes at high pressure and maybe 15-20 for the natural release. You can press saute again afterward to boil the peppers and onion (step 4 from the recipe), or just put the lid back on and do a manual pressure for 0 (zero) minutes. Just add the cornstarch/water slurry as soon as the peppers/onion are cooked, either a few minutes on saute or right when the manual pressure timer beeps and stir well. It should be hot enough to thicken up, and then serve over rice.
So it’s still 1.5 hours minimum process! But delicious.
Beyond the meals, now that my husband has kind of taken a liking to the IP (remember how you win? And it’s a decently cool power tool with an element of danger because of the pressure!), he’s made hard-boiled eggs in it, started and strained stock for me, and I know he’d put together this incredible steel cut oatmeal dish with apples and cranberries now that grains are back in our lives (Happy Easter Octave!).
After a few fails (seriously under-cooked and exploded eggs – see below) we figured out the perfect method for Instant Pot hard-boiled eggs.
Will He Keep Cooking?
I think my incredible husband has had a good experience, mostly, with the Instant Pot, and now he’s tripled his repertoire of dinners, and I know that feels good.
To be fair, although these recipes should be no problem for anyone to make – guys or gals alike, rookies and experienced home cooks – some are classified as, “with help from wife.” Especially the “showing where things are” and the “cleaning up afterward” parts. (But my husband does a TON of dishes when I cook, so I’m not complaining. It’s just funny to me how many things stay out and open as he cooks…)
Many of the recipes in this post do involve some cutting, of onions or peppers, and hubs has learned some decent knife skills just by living in our house.
By the way, in case you are wondering, I made sure dear husband knew where the stamps were when we set up our first apartment, and he still knows where they are even after moving twice. He might even know where to find envelopes, but I’m not sure about that one…
My dear friend Wardee at Traditional Cooking School can do just about anything with her Instant Pot – cakes, bread, main dishes, veggies, even “stacking” multiple kinds of food at once!
She’s offering a free sourdough cornbread Instant Pot recipe!
This cornbread is delicious, nutritious, super easy to make, and it only needs 12 minutes of cook time.
Watch Instant Pot prices on Amazon as they do change quite often!
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