Why I bought an Instant Pot and what dish made it all worthwhile.
I’ve been hearing about the Instant Pot for quite some time now. Like a lot of people I thought I didn’t want another kitchen gadget to take up counter space.
Slowly, though, I started wondering about it. There’s definitely an appeal to anything “instant” in the kitchen. And I really like making my own broths, with my choice of seasonings, my choice of what to make it from. A pressure cooker makes quick work of dried beans and tougher cuts of meat. And this one has a lot of safety features incorporated into it.
So, I caved. After a lot of research on features and prices, and enough time to scrape some money together, I caught a good sale and bought my Instant Pot Ultra.
I’ve really enjoyed learning to cook things with this. My son and I are working on our favorite tastes from Chinese restaurants with some success, and I’ve finally made ribs that taste really good.
But what really sold me on this way of cooking has been rice pudding. I’ve already shared my mom’s recipe that takes at least 3 1/2 hours in the oven, but the taste is worth every minute of it. The Instant Pot can make it about 45 minutes, and the taste is really, really close to that time intensive version of my mom’s.
Really it is my mother’s recipe, just adapted to the Instant Pot. Or, you could say it’s an Instant pot recipe that I changed to taste the way my mom’s recipe tastes. Either way, it’s a lot faster and tastes just as good cold the next day, if your family doesn’t eat it all right away.
In the summer we had a lot of fruit. If we wanted something sweet, that’s what was available. Strawberries, gooseberries, raspberries, cherries, then apples. While the fruit is at its’ peak you have to figure out a way to use it before it goes bad. Mom did a lot of canning and freezing. Sometimes the fruit, sometimes as jam or jelly.
When she got close to the end of the fruit she’d sometimes save the last cup or two and bake with it. Strawberry shortcake, apple crisp, berry or peach cobbler, all made appearances on the dinner table. As we got older she didn’t do so much canning, mostly freezing, and she turned to canned pie filling for a few recipes. Cherry squares was on those recipes. I love tart cherries, so anything with tart cherries is a hit for me. Now, though, pie filling in a can is a bit too sweet for me. Plus, there’s that whole pesky diabetes thing. I bet this recipe could easily be made without the pie filling. I’ve found canned tart cherries without sugar that could work. I would drain the juice into a small pan, add a bit of sugar, and heat it up to thicken it. Maybe add a bit of cornstarch or tapioca pearls to help. The other choice would be fresh cherries, pitted and halved, then macerated with a bit of sugar, citrus juice and zest. Actually, any berry would work that way too. Have fun with this Cherry Squares recipe, experiment and make it your own.
more peanut butter goodness
In high school I had a meeting to go to that included a pot luck sort of thing. Mom and Dad couldn’t go so I went by myself. Mom left it up to me to decide what to make, make it and get it there. So, I decided on peanut butter crunch cookies.
You almost always have everything you need for these cookies in the house. That makes it easy to make it as a spontaneous treat. The initial part where you boil the sugar, butter and milk isn’t as fussy as candy or fudge making but make sure you time it. Stir in the peanut butter just until well mixed, don’t let it get cool. Then add the rest and start portioning them out. Even though the recipe calls for crunchy peanut butter, I have always made it with creamy peanut butter. There’s enough texture in these with the oats. And, portioning these would go a lot easier with a small scoop if you have one.
At one point I decided I wanted a different taste, so I added a rounded tablespoon of cocoa powder to it. Add it in just after boiling, stir just a bit, then add your peanut butter and finish up like usual. It’s a nice change in taste. You could probably change the peanut butter to any favorite nut butter you like, maybe change the vanilla to almond, or add a bit of both. Make it once to see how the recipe works, then just make it your own.
Mom didn’t make candy very often, but when she found this recipe for Buckeyes she knew it would be a hit for her family.
It’s easy, it’s peanut butter, it’s chocolate, it’s fantastic. You can make this with kids because there’s no oven or stove-top required until you’re melting the chocolate. The first step is just making the peanut butter balls. Easy stuff, it’s even easier if you use a small scoop to help portion out the mix before you roll. If the kids can keep their peanut butter covered fingers out of their mouths, they make great helpers with this part.
I’ve always made this with creamy peanut butter. (Use your favorite peanut butter, the one that tastes best to you) I don’t really like crunchy peanut butter. But, here’s a warning, if you use margarine instead of butter (I don’t recommend that, butter tastes better) do not use the soft margarine for easy spreading. Those buckeyes will never firm up. Since then, I’ve made them with butter and they’re fantastic. Another tip, use the darkest chocolate chips you can find. These are pretty sweet little morsels, but the really dark chocolate balances that out somewhat.
apples are good all the time
I keep finding mom’s apple recipes and I can’t wait to share them. Mom and Dad made a trip to the apple orchard quite a few years in a row. I don’t remember going very often with them. Maybe it was too much hassle, maybe we complained about picking apples, who knows. But, they’d come home with a bushel or two or different types of apples. She made applesauce, apple crisp, and, less frequently, she would make apple nut squares.
There’s not a lot of sugar in this recipe, that’s part of what I like about it. Most of the flavor comes from the type of apples you use. Pick a nice tart variety, that taste comes through best. Combined with the nuts, you get the sweet/tart of the baked apple and a bit of salt just to round out the flavor. I’m sure you could substitute your favorite nut instead of walnuts. Although I’d probably stick with walnuts or pecans. Almonds may be too mild and get lost, while peanuts my overpower the apples. Although… peanut butter and apples taste good together, so it could work.
Kids and pancakes – a natural combo
Since I’ve learned I am diabetic breakfast is a bit of a challenge. Quick breakfasts have always included cereal or toast or bagels, all of which end up being too many carbs. I’ve hit upon using plain yogurt instead of milk, adding oats, a little fruit and the sweetener of my choice, but I miss weekend breakfasts.
Breakfasts on weekends were usually a little more than just cereal. Mom didn’t have to get an entire gang of kids ready for school and out the door in time to catch the bus. She had more time to make something like pancakes or waffles. When she didn’t mind taking even more time she would make silver dollar pancakes. For some reason a plate full of teeny pancakes was so much more fun than one or two regular sized ones. My own kids loved these more than plate-sized pancakes too. I sometimes tried making their initials with the pancake batter. Even the mistakes tasted good. And, waffles! Who didn’t have to make sure every little square had butter and syrup in it?
The instructions say to mix well, or mix thoroughly. I’ve learned not to mix them too long though, that leads to really heavy pancakes. Edible, but not as good tasting. So, mix just until it’s all incorporated (a few lumps are okay) and let it sit a little bit before you start making pancakes. And if you put butter in the pan, you get a really nice buttery tasting breakfast even before you add the butter and syrup.
The bottom of the pancake recipe talks about adding stuff for flavor. Applesauce is really good in this recipe. I don’t even use syrup when I add it, just some butter. The taste is sort of liked baked apples. And, seriously, the creamed corn is fantastic! Again, no syrup, just butter. And it makes a really great side dish for dinner when you’re looking for something a little different. You could also do these with a little chopped bacon in them, what doesn’t taste better when you add bacon?
Waffles weren’t made as often as pancakes because there was the added fuss with the waffle iron. This, of course, made them more of a treat the times when Mom would make them. I haven’t tried the waffle recipe with all the current add ins, but I bet with a little experimentation, you could end up with some really good tasting waffles. I haven’t had a waffle iron for some time now, or I’d be trying all kinds of variations.
what to do with extra bananas
I tend to buy bananas when I find them for a good price. Generally, they get eaten. But, sometimes they get overlooked in favor of something sweet. So, I end up with bananas that are too ripe to eat. Or, sometimes you find bananas in the store, on the clearance shelf because they’re overripe. And they’re cheap!
These overripe bananas are the secret ingredient for making the best banana nut bread ever. If you only have one or two, put them in the freezer. Save them until you get enough to make 2, 3 or 4 loaves. Because, believe me, you’re going to want to have more than just one loaf. And, this banana nut bread freezes really well. Just double wrap it in foil before you put it in the freezer. Don’t forget to label it so you can tell the difference between it and your date nut bread. As you approach holidays or family get-togethers you can make this bread ahead of time and freeze it. Take it out to thaw the night before, or maybe early in the morning of the holiday, and by dinner time it’s ready to enjoy.
This is another family favorite, and was one of many treats that we looked forward to. It makes a great gift to take when visiting too. You’ll want to have a loaf or two in your freezer for last minute desserts. Personally, I like it lightly toasted with a little butter for breakfast.