Friday, January 17, 2020

Instant Pot Update

Sally asked if I love my new Instant Pot?  So I thought it would be a good time for an update.  I will tell you straight out that I do love my IP but I will not tell you to run out and get one.  If your old tried and true slow cooker stops working, I would have you think long and hard about getting an IP to replace it, however.  And to tell a little secret, I actually am on my second IP!  My dear mom got me a bigger (8 quart) one with a yogurt button for Christmas and I gave her my first one.

What do I love most about my IP?  It is so versatile.  It does what it says it will do!  I kind of doubted one machine could do so much.  I was a resister, against the fad kind of a person.  Now I am on the bus!  Haha.

I have never had juicier "roasted" chicken!  Never.  It falls off the bone in just 30 minutes of cooking.  (Insert asterisk here.  When they say it is 30 minutes that doesn't count the time to reach high pressure nor the time for release.)  But still, it is more consistent and pretty easy.

I love making rice in it.  I hated to make brown rice and we can't eat white, so I would make it sporadically.  The first time I made brown rice in the IP I thought I had done something wrong because it was so fluffy.  And it is done so much faster than on the stovetop*.  No more stovetop for me!

I love yogurt.  I debated about making it.  I used to make it on the stovetop and then let it do its thing in the warm oven, then strain it in the fridge taking up valuable space.  I gave up thinking it was easier to buy it.  Well, let me tell you about my Cold Start Yogurt!  I literally dump in the milk, stir in my starter, press a button and 8 hours later I have the thickest yogurt that doesn't need strained.  I am making my 3rd batch as I write this.  Now, I do have to say I thought I knew it all and I made my first batch with regular ultrapasteurized milk.  It was soupy and some people like it that way.  Then I went back to my yogurt guru and watched her videos about why you need to use the ultrafiltered and ultrapasteurized milk.  Now it is just perfect.

Cheesecake!!!  If you had told me that I would be raving about cheesecake from a pressure cooker, I would have thought you were crazy.  But here I am raving.  I have made 2 of the best cheesecakes of my entire life.  In fact, I am making one this weekend by request for my husband's birthday cake.  And it won't take me very long! Wow.  I did buy a smaller spring-form pan for this purpose, highly worth it.

Spaghetti!!  I am not a huge spaghetti fan, but I tell you what, my IP makes THE BEST spaghetti I have ever had and if I had it for this one reason alone, it would be worth it.  You can make it all in one pot and it is done in less time than it used to take me to heat up the big water pot for the pasta, let alone browning the meat.  The recipe I have is pretty informal and I found it searching the Facebook group that I belong to. 

Melanie Brown's IP Spaghetti

Parmesan cheese and fresh basil for toppings (optional)
Olive oil (for browning)
1 lb ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1/2-1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp Italian Seasoning (dried herbs)
2 cups water (divided)
1 24 oz jar of spaghetti sauce (we like tomato and basil, get whatever kind you like).
10-11 oz of spaghetti

1. Put IP on SAUTÉ. Once it reads HOT, brown the beef and onion. Season lightly with salt, pepper, add the garlic powder and Italian seasoning. Once browned hit CANCEL.
2. Dissolve the kosher salt into the 2 cups of warm water.
3. Add 1/4 cup of the water and deglaze the pan. Get as much of the brown stuff off the bottom (sometimes I use red wine to do this part instead of the water).
4. Pour 1/2 of what’s leftover from the water on top of the beef mixture (please don’t make me do the math, just pour what looks like 1/2 of what’s left).
5. Snap the spaghetti in half and lay across the top of the beef and water.
6. Press down a bit on the spaghetti to immerse as much as possible. Don’t stir.
7. Pour the jar of spaghetti sauce over the top.
8. Pour what’s left of the water into the jar and swish around. Get all the good stuff left behind, and pour that on top. Gently press down, but don’t stir and mix the pot.
9. Set the Instant Pot on PRESSURE cook (and make sure the vent is closed).
10. Set the time for 1/2 of what the spaghetti directions call for. I use thin spaghetti, so it’s 4-5 minutes for me.
11. Once the Instant Pot beeps that it’s done, do a quick release. Open up and stir around.
12. Garnish with Parmesan cheese and fresh basil if desired

Eggs!  The first thing I made in my IP was hard-boiled eggs.  Now, they didn't cook in a flash, but the best part was that the shells practically fell off.  My guys love egg salad and deviled eggs.  They are more likely to get them now.  Lots of people have their favorite method.  I did the 4-4-5 method .

And it still makes a decent slow cooker.  I have heard some criticism about its slow cooker function because the heat comes from the bottom and is not wrapped around like the Crockpot.  I have made my favorite chicken stock and chili without any differences.  It even goes to keep warm when the time is done.  I call that a win.  I did buy the slow cooker lid with the vent.  I use it for making yogurt, too.

When it comes down to it, does anyone really need an Instant Pot?  No, it is just another tool.  But if you enjoy learning something new, finding new inspiration for feeding your family, making progress and feeling successful, it might just be for you!  I do highly recommend joining an IP group on Facebook if you do get one.  That is where I have found helpful inspiration and support.  Or find a good friend who loves hers!  It can be intimidating to just turn it on that first time.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Normal Life

Oops!  I missed a week!  I think it was due to that "getting back to reality" adjustment after the holidays' thing.  Life is now back to our normal with work, school, church and the like.   I think this will be a "newsy" post since there is nothing else coming to my mind!

We got both college students back to their schools.  I only cried a little.  Is it so bad that I love being with them?  I do really like them. We had such a lovely break.  I  wish they could be here and at the same time I know I would never really want that.  I want them off making a life for themselves.  Who knows, maybe they will come back and live around here after graduation. 

Our youngest started his last semester of high school and I have, as they say, "all the feels!"  First of all, I have senioritis which started last year when our daughter was a senior.  I am tired of school.  There, I said it.  Ha.  Thankfully, he is able to do it all on his own and he doesn't share my apathy.  He is expecting another college acceptance letter any day now.  He can basically go wherever he pleases with his good SAT score and grades.  Yay! Secondly, I find myself often thinking about how life will change when he is away at school.  I will be doing a chore and think, "Who will help me do this then?"  Please tell me I will be OK.  His leaving will be hard!!!  I am at the stage where I cling to each opportunity to do anything for him as it was my last chance. 

Jeff has returned to work. He is doing so well. I am so thankful for this blessing.  I feel as if he is getting a second chance at life!! 

We are enjoying a bit of a quiet weekend with all three children gone, our youngest being at a winter retreat.  It has been a lovely day at home doing as we please.  Maybe life after kids will be more pleasant than I fear? 

Have a lovely week and do stop by again!  (Do you like my new coffee table?  The cats are not sure.)

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Ending 2019 Intentionally

(Inspired by this post on No Sidebar, where we are encouraged to end our year intentionally with some thoughtful questions.) 

What did I worry about most in 2019?

2019 had too many worries!  My dear husband was very sick with an infection/abscess in his colon.  I worried to no end about him.  We really did not know what we were facing for a long time and then he kept getting worse.  We literally found ourselves facing a nightmare, our bread-winner was to have major surgery with no guarantees of restored health.  I would have to say my biggest fear, other than losing him, was to be without an income or deep in medical debt.  Praise God, none of those fears were realized.  Jeff's health is slowly being restored.  His employer-provided short term disability for 6 weeks!  And our insurance took care of most of the $197,000 bill.  My working paid for our share, $10,000.  God provided once again!

What's one thing that changed about me?

As a result of our trial, I had to step up and do more for myself.  Jeff literally would go to work and come home to bed for weeks on end.  I was mom and dad to our kids.  It was exhausting at times.  I really missed Jeff's companionship, too.  It is only recently that he has started to do more, thankfully!  I did see how I had become lazy, depending on him for little things I could and should do myself.  It also gave me a taste of what it must be like to be a single parent or widow.  I grew in appreciation of my husband's provision and his ability to keep going when he was even at his worst.  I learned to admire him anew. 

If you could go back to last January 1, what suggestions would you give to your past self?

This is a good question!  I am thankful that I ran to my Lord when things got so hard. I was used to praying and reading my Bible so I felt strengthed for the valley of 2019.  So I would tell myself to keep in God's word, pray and surround myself with godly friends because you do not know when you will face a difficult time.  Also, trials do not last forever.  It only feels like circumstances will never change. 

Saturday, December 21, 2019

See Grace? Say Thanks, Always!

Nearly every day, I take a moment and write in my notebook something for which I am thankful.  I've been in this habit for several years now (inspired by Anne Voskamp's 1000 Gifts).  I really enjoy looking back at previous entries, too. 

Recently, our pastor gave us the assignment to write down 10 things a day for a week!  While I decided to only write down 5, it was an interesting exercise, even for someone used to the task.  He told us, "When you see grace, say thanks, always." 

I am very grateful in general, especially now that we have come through a challenging and long season of illness.  I thought this week I would record my observations of grace here along with a few pictures that I have enjoyed recently. 

12/14/19 The gift of a relaxing Saturday afternoon at home.
12/15/19 Pizza delivery after church when having visitors makes everyone happy.
12/16/19 A snowy day at home, able to avoid driving in the mess!

12/17/19 Good post-op visit for my husband with the surgeon!! This is huge.
12/18/19 The husband's bloodwork came back within normal limits!! 
12/19/19 Two sleeping babes at the same time, a little rest for me. 

12/20/19 Blessed with some very nice Christmas gifts from the babies' families! (They went over and beyond to express their appreciation and I am so very touched!)  
12/21/19 Having all three of my young adults home for the next few weeks.  

Saturday, December 14, 2019

What Do I Do All Day?

My homeschool career is mostly over with only one student home, ready to graduate in May, doing his own thing.  Last school year I decided to find a job to do at home after thinking long and hard about working outside of the home. I even went to an interview at a local school! 

My heart has always been at home, so I started to think about what I could do from home that I am good at.  And about that time, someone from church put a notice on a Facebook group that she was looking for someone to care for her new 12-week old baby.  That was over a year ago.  I have had quite the year.  In March, I saw another notice in the same group for another baby.  Now I have a 17-month-old boy and an 11-month-old girl coming to my home four and three days a week. 

The whole idea was quite a change for me. I had to relearn all that I had forgotten about babies.  And I had forgotten a lot!  And I also fell in love!  I love those babies!  I love their families.  It is hard, honest work.  Those babies keep me busy from 8 to 5.  My own family has sacrificed and fell in love with the babies, too.  And the babies love them.  Their families trust us with their most precious children. 

A year ago we did not know that my husband would end up having major abdominal surgery this past November and we would need every extra penny I have earned for insurance deductibles.  God knew.  I am thankful for the work, the joy the babies bring, their families' friendships.  And it is wonderful to see how my children have learned to care for little ones, a valuable life skill. 

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Time For a Reboot

Well hello, friends!!

I am back.  I am going to pick up where I left off because so much has happened in almost 2 years, 2 years!!!  Anyway, I am going to blog to please myself, record my hum-drum life so that I can remember these precious days the Lord has blessed me with.  So let us do get on with it!!!  :)

My most beloved kitchen appliance, my slow cooker, died last week.  I have been known as The Queen of the Crockpot around my circles for awhile. I mean I really loved that thing!!!!  We were joined at the hip.  And it was a nice one, an All-Clad!!!  It lasted for over 10 years.  I always told myself that if anything happened to it, I would rush out and get a new one.

Enter the Instant Pot!!  My father purchased this Instant Pot a few years ago and never used it beyond the first few times experimenting.  He, bless his heart, decided to give it to me, way before my slow cooker died.  I was always curious about them and scared to death of them at the same time!  Silly really.

I have decided to give it a go, a real go.  I am going to wait for 6 months and see if I can live without my slow cooker.  This one is a basic model, 6 quarts.  I think it will do fine with my shrinking family.  (3 in college this coming fall!)

I just love how the Lord orchestrates things like this.  He knew my slow cooker was going to die. He knew my Dad had an unloved Instant Pot. He even knew that Walmart pick up was going to give me 36 eggs for the price of 12 this week.  (What??)  So my first pressure cooking will be of hard-boiled eggs!  Wish me luck!!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

My Happy Spring "This and That" Post

We are now in the season that I dearly love! Gone are the extremes of winter!!  Well, not totally gone. We are expecting a snow storm tonight and tomorrow.  But for all intents and purposes, the weather will moderate and life will improve a great deal because of it.

Last week, my dear college student was home.  We had a great time.  We got to see a couple movies as a family.  Mostly we just enjoyed being together.  This is a huge praise as things were not as friendly at the beginning of the school year.

While Ryan was home we celebrated his belated 20th birthday.  It was so odd not actually seeing him on his special day.  We did have birthday cookies delivered to him at the dorm, but it wasn't the same.  This is the hard side of letting go!  (It's all hard!!)

This coming Friday, the other two students are going to Quebec with their grandparents for 5 days.  They have their passports and are eager to see the sights.  I know they are going to have the best time.  Trevor will get to practice all the French he is learning.

My mouth continues to heal.  In two weeks I can have coffee again.  (Yay!)  I even survived the start of daylight savings time without coffee.  I was tempted to get an iced coffee that day but decided to be tough.  It is interesting how I used to think that I needed coffee to survive.  I am actually glad to know that I am not addicted to caffeine.

While the kids are away, my dear aunt is coming for a few days.  I am trying to think of something fun to do.  I know how to entertain children and teens, but not sure what an older woman would want to do.  Perhaps we will go to an antique mall or two.  I love those!

Tax season ends in 26 days!  Right now my dear husband is working ridiculous hours, but soon we will have him back.  I am so thankful that he has a good job and good health.

There are only 66 more calendar days until the end of our school year.  There is still plenty to do. Trevor is working on a term paper.  He also has more state-mandated testing in April.  Grace has that SAT to prepare for.

Both kids are going to the school's prom in April.   Trevor is on the prom committee.  Grace will be taking a good friend.  Our families will be having dinner out and then take the kids to the venue.  We have purchased a lovely dress for Grace and rented a tux for Trevor.  Fancy!

We celebrated the year anniversary of adopting our little Pippin the Cat.  He is such a joy and big part of our family.  I cannot imagine life without him.

A few pictures...

Until Next Time,