Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Instant pot for newbies- my tips

Instant Pot info for Newbies!

I jumped on the bandwagon and got an Instant Pot when they went on sale for Amazon Prime day last month, and LOVE it!  It makes preparing lots of things much simpler, cuts cooking down on most recipes, and definitely simplifies things with less dishes and not heating up the house with stovetop or oven cooking!  It's not always faster or exceedingly simpler, but we have used it several times each week and really love it!  I get nothing out of telling you about it, other than helping others find a simpler way to get food on the table faster!   It is a bit of a learning curve, but once you pass that, it's a joy!  I am not a pro, but this is what I've learned thus far, and some links that have helped me get comfortable, as well as recipes we have personally tried.


  1. Read your manual.  It's not a vacuum, you need to know what you are doing.
  2. Do the water test - it will help make sure your pot is working correctly.
  3. Always put pot on SEAL when cooking
  4. Make sure the pot is in the cooker before adding ingredients!!! This is a 'duh' but it happens...  If you forget, there are tips online to dump it out, take off the bottom, etc.
  5. Clean and sanitize the silicone ring everytime!  Buy extras, they retain the smell of the food, keep a 'non-stinky' one for yogurt, oatmeal, cheesecakes, etc.
  6. Don't put the pot on your stove (duh) or let steam out under cabinets! 
  7. '30 minutes cooking' does NOT equal 30 minutes start to finish.  It takes time to saute first, if needed, then to come to pressure (6-15 minutes depending on how full it is), then to cook, then to release pressure.
  8. Use HOT water/broth when possible for faster cooking.  Heat pot to saute first, no matter what you are going to do with it, before adding ingredients to help it come to temp/pressure faster.
  9. Some recipes are dumb.  People have different tastes, etc.  That's real life - and not the fault of the pot.  It's just doing what you tell it to, lol.  It's not a miracle pot.  If you are a crappy cook, your food won't taste like Julia Child made it. ;)
  10. Cleaning - use a sponge brush is a good tip for getting into the crevices.  Clean your condensation cup when it gets dirty (it isn't every time).  Clean the black pop-up venting valve!  Wash the lid!
  11. Use a metallic sharpie to highlight the words for cook, closed, vent, etc.  
  12. Modify recipes to taste!  Most are good with swapping ingredients (gluten free pasta, spices, etc. etc.  It can be trial and error though).


  • Instant Pot Community group on FB
  • Instant Pot website - instructions and recipes
  • Order from Amazon - 
  • Pinterest is your friend!  Read comments for suggestions from others on each recipe, for modifications, questions, etc.  
  • Books are good too - check the library
  • Fun videos for basics - 
    • Youtube channel for Instant Pot
    • Youtube channel for Cuong, a pot user with a sense of humor
    • Basic videos by , another helpful 'pothead' that is great for newbies

Recipes we've tried/modified with success:

  • Water. lol.  DO the water test first.  Great video for a step by step
  • Baked potatoes - we added salt and pepper and garlic salt first, amazingly easy - great first recipe to try as it is inexpensive and you'll get hooked
  • Rice pudding (I made it with coconut/almond milk too, but the texture isn't as great)
  • Sausage and shrimp fake jambalaya.  I modified this for my kids - no veggies, nothing spicy, and we just used more shrimp instead of chicken.  Easy and delicious
  • Chicken enchilada soup - again, I did my own thing with it.  I'll try to add those edits later
  • Pot roast - we cooked this mostly to the specifications.  It was awesome.  one hour time maybe, as opposed to a normal 3 hour.  Rad
  • Whole chicken.  Recipe is stupid misleading as this took over an hour start to finish.  And we won't do it regularly since rotisseries cost the same price, but if you want to know every ingredient, this is ideal.  It made awesome soup stock when refrigerated the next day, just take off the fat layer
  • Mac and cheese.  Easy and delicious, only one pot to clean instead of 2 pots plus a colander.  I want to modify it to saute frozen sliced chicken with garlic and tomatoes first, then remove and cook the pasta, then add it back at then end with the cheese, along with fresh spinach and basil.
  • SOUPS!
  • Zuppa Toscana (MY favorite - I'll add my recipe in another blog post soon)
  • Chicken breasts - with salsa, then shredded for soups and quesadillas, tacos, etc.
  • Chicken breasts - with marinade, sauces for orange chicken or teriyaki, etc
  • Broccoli Beef - love it!  Cook the meat and the rice PIP simultaneously, then add broccoli.  Household fave!
  • Chili - way easy!
  • Hardboiled Eggs
  • Beef Stew
  • Lemon Curd
  • NY Cheesecake
  • Beans (from dried!) in less than an hour
  • Polish sausage soup
  • Yogurt
  • Rice pudding - SO GOOD. 
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Sweet and Sour Chicken (on the bottom) and jasmine rice (Pot in pot on a trivet)
  • Shredded chicken for tacos/nachos (on the bottom), with spanish Rice (pot in pot on a trivet)
  • Asian Chicken wings
  • Corn on the cob

Recommended Accessories:
  • Silicone Rings - this is a BIG ONE.  Get these if nothing else - as they can take on the flavor of what is cooked, and need to be sanitized between uses, and setting it out in the sun is one thing that does the trick.  You don't want to wait that out if you are ready to cook again as the pot itself is fast to scrub!
  • 7" Cheesecake pan  It should work for meatloaf too
  • Glass jars or dishes to make yogurt, sauces, jams, are recommended - I didn't do this yet
  • Little silicone containers for poached eggs - I don't eat those but others love them. lol
  • Steamer basket - for veggies or easier removal of items.  Also can be layered on top of one item to cook a second at the same time
  • Stainless bowl for 'pot in pot' cooking, or cooking 2 things at once.  I feel more comfortable doing that then using glass.  I use this for rice all the time!
  • Freezer/storage containers - cause, leftovers.  Or little tupperware type ones for single serving yogurts, rice pudding, etc.

Friday, January 15, 2016

PINK for my tween? No, no, and NO.

I just heard about the new craze for fashion brands at the middle school where my Mom teaches - PINK, from Victoria's Secret.  She said her 6th-8th graders are flaunting the brand, which boldly posts it's logo (on pretty much everything) as a status symbol.  It looks like it's a real thing.  Add me to this list of 'Mad Moms'.

Seriously?  While I understand that our family is definitely on the conservative side - I can't imagine letting my daughter wear clothing that flaunts a lingerie company!  She's 12, and in 7th grade.  While I believe it's fine for grown women to shop there and look and feel beautiful about their figures, I wouldn't even take my daughter in that store!

Girls this age are already experiencing so much body anxiety as their hormones change things.  They see and compare themselves to other girls.  They have to change in the locker room for the first time. Why would I want them to compare themselves (and aspire to the beauty standards of) to grown, developed modelesque women in sexy lingerie?  While I realize the lacy and racy side of the store is a different focus, and PINK is more about playful, comfy, cute and colorful, it's ALL the same shebang.  It's expensive, showy, lingerie; not simply undergarments meant to just do their job, but thongs and push up bras.  These are meant to make your girl parts look good, with or without clothing - simply put.  How is that going to effect her self-view?  Why would I want to promote that not only to her, but have her promote that to her peers?  Why would I encourage middle school boys to know she shops at a sexy lingerie store?  How does one NOT think that they are going to wonder what else she is buying and wearing from there (underneath her clothing)?  Believe me, with hormones this age, these kids have enough to battle to guard their hearts and minds, than for us to encourage them to think of each other in more adult ways.  Not to mention- grown men see your daughters as well.  Do you want to look at your girl as a potential Victoria's Secret model?  (Can I get a 'hell no' in here???)

Normally I am NOT one to preach, but my adrenaline is up, my blood is boiling.  These are tweens.  These are kids, barely making their way into their own bodies, and we are showing them the figures and models and bodies to aspire to?  No thank you - no freaking way that I am going to tell my young daughter that being 'sexy' is of value. Not physically, or emotionally.  I have zero interest in that. I remember being her age, the super short, tight, knit skirts were in style.  My Mom made mine - and I can tell you, I was annoyed because she added to them.  They were longer, almost knee-length, and not glued to my butt.  I wanted to show off my figure the same way the cute and cool girls were.  But that was a no-go for them.  I remember someone telling me I was a prude, hahaa!  Maybe so.  Looking back, I'd probably do the same for my kid! I thought back then it's because I was a PK.  But now I see my Mother was protecting my body image (and keeping the boys eyes off my booty), it wasn't about being religious. So, thanks Mom. :)

Feeling beautiful in your own skin is important, now AND later.  Feeling sexy?  Save it.  Save it for when it's relevant for others, when it's appropriate - and that (at our home, in our worldview, and mindset) isn't going to be in the teen years.

We don't care what other kids are doing or wearing.  
While my daughter hasn't even shown interest or asked about it (frankly, we've raised her NOT to care about brand names and advertising for things and people she doesn't believe in), I'm putting my foot down about this one before it even comes up. And if/when it does, showing her the 'why not' aspects of this will be important.  I know that we care more about her heart than outward appearance.

I hope more parents realize this isn't just about cute clothes, and do the same, not only for their girl's body image, but to help our young men (classmates, future boyfriends and husbands) do the same.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Also, 1 Peter 3:31 and Corinthians 12:23 have good words of encouragement too about modesty, the heart and outward appearance.

And a P.S. I'm not known to be a judgmental person. I have friends from ALL walks.  I'm not calling out anyone specific, or trying to speak down to your parenting skills.  I'm not a parenting expert, and my kid isn't perfect, by ANY means.  I'm not proclaiming to be the seat of wisdom, or a role model for all.  I'm wanting to just share, from my heart, from my experience. I just wanting to share how I feel, what I see, and how we are helping to guard her heart.  You may see these as just clothes - do what's best for you.  I'm just speaking from our life, our walk with God, our experience, our hearts. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Steam punk gun from a squirt gun

I had too much fun with this.  My son decided that for the Scarbrough Renaissance faire this year, he wanted to go in steam punk style.

This is not a tutorial, just some shots of before, during, and after.  
I used spray paint for the base, paint pens and acrylic paints, and beads and buttons and bottle caps and broken metal bits.
Before and after... Left side

Squirt guns were bought in a two pack on Amazon prime. 

Quickly sanded and a base coat of spray Paint....

Starting to add bits of metallic silver, gold, black paint and paint pen, followed by acrylic artist paints.....

Now for the fun part, take out all your random stuff and start gluing!  I just used regular superglue.

Before and after of the right side---

I already primed the other squirt gun, I have to make another one immediately.  ;) 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

He's Thankful for the important things..

Love this kid!  My son has an intense flair for storytelling... Can't imagine who he gets that from! 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

advent calendar - box of mini boxes!

Our family likes to use the month of December to purposefully spend time with each other each day, this is a great way to do so when things get busy.

I bought the brown cardboard set from Hobby Lobby, but have had it at least two years before finally getting around to finishing it off.  I used multiple cans of spray paint for different metallic finishes- sterling silver, dull aluminum, hammered silver, dark bronze, and white. I also use two colors of spray glitter, sealing them well with a clearcoat.  At this point, some time between when I spray-painted in the garage on Sunday and today, Wednesday, one of the boxes randomly went missing. Lovely.  You will see in the next post, I just used washi tape for the center box, because I gave up looking and it's too cold to spray paint.

Lay out lots of little happy random things for all the numbers....

And hot glue! Add handwriting for those needed.  I'm still not done with the numbers, I have to find my LabelMaker and some number stickers that are at my studio.

We are happy with it! It will hold little treats for the kids, or tags that tell them fun family activities for the day, like Cocoa night, storytime, movie night, family night out, Smore's, etc.  They will also open preselected gifts from time to time, like books for a day they'll be home, a cute toy for a long car ride, pajamas, a new ornament for their tree, or crafts we can do together that afternoon.

Friday, September 26, 2014

80s inspired charm necklace

I bought a crazy rainbow striped dress this week that looked like a pack of Lifesavers to wear to a vinyl toy art show that I was participating in. I was afraid it was too loud, but wanted a perfect piece of jewelry to wear with it. The colors reminded me of the crazy 80s, so I decided to pull a bunch of awesome plastic mini toys and objects and make a necklace inspired by the charm necklaces we wore in elementary school.

I got the colored chain at hobby lobby and two large charms there, the gold bicycle and large black glasses, as well as two packs of miniature, bright colored Christmas ornaments. I bought two pairs of earrings at Claire's that I took apart for smaller bright colored charms, and the rest is either from my shadow boxes of cute mini things, or pieces of my kids toys or game pieces.

I love the end result, it's fun and playful and I had quite a few compliments on it last night, even strangers who were mildly obsessed with it. LOL. It's not superheavy since most of it is plastic.  The funny part is, I still have enough stuff that I could probably make an entire other necklace! LOL

Which are your favorite charms? 
Did you have one as a kid? 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Geeked out organized bins

In preparation for the move, we emptied all the medicine cabinets and bathroom drawers and misc. stuff in linen closets in the house. Since we are going from 2 bathrooms to 4, it was important to get everything organized. After tossing out all the old stuff like expired meds, Goopy fingernail polish, and random toiletries we no longer use, I got these great bins for less than four bucks each and got it all sorted. 

To nerd out a bit more, I had some 8.5x11 card stock I had previously stencil spray inked, cut those in half lengthwise, labeled everything  and just stuck them in the side of the bins with the loot. 

This was Seriously easy, and since the big card stock "labels" cover the whole side of the bin, you can easily find what you need without seeing the hot mess inside. Easy Peasy process, with a great sense of satisfaction.

Being this organized before we move I think will really help us settle in more easily.

Like my descriptions?  Lol