Gift Guide: Bells & Whistles for the Instant Pot Obsessed

I wouldn’t believe it myself if I didn’t have the traffic analytics to prove it, but there’s no denying it… pressure cooking is hot. And I’m not just talking about the elevated boiling point of water inside the powerful, pressurized contraption that you’ve been convinced to invite onto your kitchen counter! Trust me, you won’t regret it. Since I first got acquainted with Instant Pot a couple of years ago, it’s been a constant companion in my cooking adventures. My pressure cooking recipes weren’t always the biggest draws on this site, but these days things are different; I can tell I’m not the only one obsessed with this multi-talented cooker.

Since it looks like there are a lot of people enamored with their new toys this season, I’m taking a moment to help you spread some holiday cheer. If someone in your life is hooked on cooking under pressure, show them some love with these must-have tools and accessories.

(Please note: I’m just a fan, no sponsorship or other relationship with Instant Pot or any of the manufacturers of the products below. I am, however, using Amazon affiliate links. flavorrd is a member of the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, and earns a commission for purchases made through the following links.)

            
First things first: the cooker! When I started shopping around for an electric pressure cooker, Instant Pot was the obvious choice for me – stainless steel liner, programmable cooking, even yogurt modehere’s my review if you want to read more about how great it is. I have Instant Pot DUO, and since my purchase they’ve also released Instant Pot SMART, which has the benefit of fully customized cooking programs controlled via Bluetooth from your smartphone. Fancy!

                           

If your cooker didn’t already come with one, definitely spring for the glass lid – it’s a nice alternative to the pressure lid for slow cooking and keep-warm mode. It’s also nice to have an extra gasket, as they wear out over time and can have a tendency to retain strong cooking odors. Another surprisingly handy tool is an extra inner pot; it makes it easier to use your IP for multiple courses (eg. after slow-cooking an entree, you can swap out the extra pot for a quick batch of rice to serve alongside).

You can really expand your pressure cooking options with a simple steamer basket. Practically anything you would steam on the stovetop (veggies, dumplings, artichokes) comes out faster and with more flavor locked in under pressure.

                         

If your gift-ee is a fermented foodie like me, they’ve got to be excited about Instant Pot’s yogurt maker mode! Enhance your yogurt endeavors with a set of glass jars; you can make yogurt in any sized container you like (including right in the pot itself) but my favorites are pint-sized jars with a wide mouth. You’ll need a thermometer for ensuring the milk has cooled enough to add the cultures after scalding, and canning tongs are also really useful for removing hot jars from the cooker. If your favorite Instant Pot Fan prefers their yogurt Greek style, this special strainer will help them concentrate their home-made yogurt into thick, creamy perfection.

Not into yogurt? How about expanding their healthy cooking repertoire with some fancy dried beans? Pressure cookers make short work of dry legumes, and Rancho Gordo offers the best heirloom varieties. This sampler pack has 5 exotic types of beautiful beans.

                

Finally, let’s not forget about books: my top two picks are Hip Pressure Cooking and The New Fast Food. The former, by our generation’s top pressure cooking guru Laura Pazzaglia, provides a wealth of information to help new users get their bearings, along with plenty of fresh recipes with a chic European aesthetic. The latter, by the Veggie Queen herself Jill Nussinow (a fellow registered dietitian!), focuses on healthy vegetarian recipes, so it’s a great resource for my favorite kind of everyday cooking. The only caveat is that Nussinow prefers traditional stovetop pressure cookers over electrics, so for use with Instant Pot, you’ll have to be mindful of the cooking instructions and make some adjustments. It’s not that difficult once you get the hang of it, but it may not be the easiest choice for beginners.

I hope these picks will help make some spirits bright among my fellow Instant Pot devotees. Readers, if you’ve come across any other tools or accessories that make pressure cooking more fun, please share! Anything else you would add to the list?

[Instant Pot] Balsamic Basil Wheatberry Salad

When most people think about pressure cooker recipes, they tend to conjure up images of stews, braises, and other sorts of steamy, stick-to-your-ribs one-pot meals that enjoy the spotlight in the colder months. But don’t forget that an electric pressure cooker is also a valuable tool for summer cooking: because everything is self-contained, cooking under pressure doesn’t heat up the kitchen. So don’t neglect your Instant Pot just because even the thought of your favorite soup recipe is making you sweat… think outside the box! It may sound crazy, but this week I used my pressure cooker to make salad. I only wish I had tried it sooner, because you’re looking at an instant summer staple.

I think this was my first time eating wheat berries, and definitely my first time cooking them. These are the same kernels that they grind up to make whole-wheat flour, just kept intact and cooked thoroughly, resulting in a plump, chewy, flavorful grain, almost like a more robust short grain brown rice.

[Instant Pot] Balsamic Basil Wheatberry Salad

Because September is Whole Grains Month, the dietitian in me is compelled to take a moment to chat about the special benefits of intact whole grains. I’m talking about whole grains consumed in their least processed form: merely hulled of their fibrous husks, but with the bran, germ and endosperm all in their natural state (examples include wheat berries, brown/wild rice, quinoa, farro, millet, hulled barley, and buckwheat groats). You can think of these as the ‘gold standard’ of grainy goodness. While processed whole grains (like whole wheat flour) still have the same richness in nutrients (fiber, protein, B vitamins, a bit of healthy fat, and essential minerals like magnesium), intact whole grains have the perk of an extra-low glycemic index. This ensures a slow digestion process, keeping you fuller longer and minimizing spikes in blood sugar that can contribute to chronic health problems. For more details, get a healthy dose of carb common sense from the Whole Grains Council.

So, wheat berries have a lot going for them. Now that I know how tasty they are, how super cheap they are in the bulk bins, and how easy they are to cook in the Instant Pot… I’m hooked!

This recipe started with a craving for Smitten Kitchen’s feta salsa, which I’ve made a few times as a party appetizer. I knew the rich flavors would be well suited to bulking up with hearty whole grains, and I figured fresh tomatoes and a drizzle of my best balsamic would kick it up to the next level of juicy summer freshness. What was once an indulgent treat is now a balanced meal, with just enough fat and salt from the feta and kalamatas to keep things interesting. Just the way we like it around here!

(You can, of course, make this without my loyal kitchen companion, Instant Pot. Just boil the wheat berries in 4-5 cups of water (add more if needed) for about an hour, until they’re tender, then go on with the recipe.)

[Instant Pot] Balsamic Basil Wheatberry Salad

[Instant Pot] Balsamic Basil Wheatberry Salad

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: Serves 6

[Instant Pot] Balsamic Basil Wheatberry Salad

For the wheat berries
1.5 cups wheat berries (hard red winter wheat kernels)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
4 cups water
1 pinch salt
For the salad:
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1-2 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup chopped kalamata olives
1-2 oz. feta cheese
1 large handful each of fresh basil and fresh parsley, chopped

Begin by toasting the dry wheat berries to emphasize their nutty flavor: add the olive oil to the pressure cooker to cook over medium heat (press the 'Saute' button to begin cooking at medium saute heat). When the oil is hot, add the wheat berries and cook, stirring frequently. When the wheat berries are fragrant (after about 5 minutes) add the water and salt, then cook under high pressure for 30 minutes (press 'Cancel' to stop saute mode, then close the lid and press 'Manual' to select 30 minutes).

When the cooking time is complete, allow 10 minutes for a natural pressure release before opening the valve and lid. Drain the wheat berries in a colander and rinse with cold water to cool the grains.

Transfer the wheat berries into a large bowl and toss with the remaining ingredients, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

https://flavorrd.com/2015/09/instant-pot-wheatberry-salad/

Instant Pot Recipe Index

[Instant Pot] Insta-Chicken! (or, how pressure cooking revolutionized my weeknight dinners)

Most of the time, I love to cook. But some nights, I wish dinner would just cook itself.

Thankfully, I finally figured out the solution to my problem. And knowing myself, I really shouldn’t be surprised that it involves Instant Pot, my loyal kitchen companion. I’ve learned that with the magic of pressure-cooking, I can effortlessly cook chicken breasts from frozen. Yes, STRAIGHT FROM THE FREEZER! Each pound yields enough shredded meat for dinner + leftovers for 2. The chicken steams itself into tender, moist perfection with the help of whatever flavorful liquid your heart desires. Along with the rest of my Instant Pot recipes, it’s really been a game-changer for my weeknight cooking. If you’re a fellow pressure-cooking devotee, read on for the simple steps!

[Instant Pot] Insta-Chicken!

Start with about a pound of frozen chicken breasts. It’s difficult to tell, but this photo actually shows a single very large breast that weighs a full pound. Optimal cooking time is affected by the size of your chicken breasts (more on that later).

[Instant Pot] Insta-Chicken!

Then decide what you’d like your chicken to taste like. You’ll want 1/2 cup of something tasty, and 1/2 cup of water to dilute. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination, and I’ll share some of my favorite combos below, but for this example I’m keeping it simple: storebought salsa!

[Instant Pot] Insta-Chicken!

After you mix in the water to make a full cup of liquid, pour it over the chicken in your pressure cooker. Close the lid and set the cooking time based on the size of your poultry portions. On the low end of the spectrum, small 4-6 oz. portions of frozen chicken cook through in about 15 minutes, while the large 16 oz. cut above needs 30 minutes; if your portions fall somewhere in the middle, adjust accordingly. I’ve used both the manual setting and poultry program on Instant Pot, and have not observed any real difference in the results.

[Instant Pot] Insta-Chicken!

After the cook time is up, let the pot rest for 10 minutes to naturally release pressure before opening the lid and and removing the chicken to shred it. If by chance you find that your chicken is undercooked, never fear – just shred it as best you can and return it to the pot with Slow Cooker or Saute mode turned on until it’s cooked through.

[Instant Pot] Insta-Chicken!

And tada! It really is that easy. This is a glimpse at the finished product from my post on Chimichurri in a Hurry.

On weeknights, I throw the chicken and sauce into the cooker, and then begin my relaxed 30-minute countdown/meditation of figuring out what else is going into our dinner. I might be reheating leftover brown rice and chopping up fixin’s to top burrito bowls, or I might be toasting buns and tossing a side salad, or whatever else sounds good in the moment!

Or on weekends, I can take a couple of minutes while I’m at home to cook up some healthy protein that I can bank on later in the week. For example, the salsa Insta-Chicken from these photos later went on to play a starring role in a killer taco pie / enchilada bake (you can thank fellow RD blogger at Fearless Flying Kitchen for the recipe).

And the real beauty of this technique: endless flavor possibilities. Variety is the spice of life, of course! Starting with the easy Mexican chicken we walked through in the photos, here are 5 of my favorite flavor combinations that I’ve tried so far:

Simple Salsa: 1/2 cup water + 1/2 cup of your favorite salsa

BBQ: 1/2 cup water + 1/2 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce + a splash of apple cider vinegar for extra tang

Teriyaki: 1/2 cup water + 1/4 cup soy sauce + 1/4 cup orange juice + 1 Tbsp. brown sugar + a squirt of sriracha

Cuban Mojo: 1/2 cup water + 1/3 cup orange juice + juice from 1/2 lime + 1-2 cloves of minced garlic + 1/2 tsp. cumin + salt/pepper

Spicy Korean: 1/2 cup water + 2 Tbsp. gochujang + 2 Tbsp. honey + 2 Tbsp. soy sauce + 1 Tbsp. sesame oil + 1 Tbsp. rice vinegar

OK, I lied: I can’t stop at 5! I’m going to continue to update this post with more simple sauces whenever I try one that strikes my fancy. Fellow experimenters, I’d LOVE to hear about your successes in the comments!

Honey Dijon: 1/2 cup water + 1/4 cup whole grain mustard + 1/4 cup honey + hot sauce (if desired)

Lemon Garlic Herb: 1/2 cup water + juice from 1/2 lemon + 2 cloves minced garlic + 1/2 tsp. dried basil + salt/pepper

Jamaican Jerk: 1/2 cup water + 1/4 cup molasses + 2 Tbsp. lime juice + 2 Tbsp. orange juice + generous sprinkles of dried thyme/allspice/salt to taste + a handful of fresh sliced garlic and ginger (and hot peppers if desired)

Chile Verde: one 10-oz. can green enchilada sauce (no need to dilute with water)

Thai Curry: 1 cup canned coconut milk + 1-2 Tbsp. Thai curry paste of your choice (no need to dilute with water)

[Instant Pot] Insta-Chicken!

If you’re looking for more healthy + delicious food to cook up in your Instant Pot, check out my other recipes here!

[Instant Pot] Insta-Chicken!

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: Serves 4

[Instant Pot] Insta-Chicken!

~1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, frozen
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup flavorful liquid of your choice (see suggestions above)

In a measuring cup or small bowl, mix together the water and flavorful liquid of your choice. Place the frozen chicken in the Instant Pot liner, and pour the liquid over the chicken. Close the lid (with vent set to sealing position), press the 'Poultry' button and use the +/- buttons to adjust the cooking time. For standard chicken breasts (~4-6 oz. each), cook for 15 minutes; for extra-large chicken breasts (~1 lb. each), cook for 30 minutes. In between these two sizes, scale your cook time accordingly.

After the cooking program completes, allow the pressure to release naturally for 10 minutes before opening the lid. If you're in a hurry, it is not hazardous to manually "quick-release" the pressure - but this may toughen the chicken's texture. Transfer the chicken breasts to a plate and shred into bite-sized pieces with two forks. While you shred the chicken, you can optionally turn on Instant Pot's 'Saute' mode to reduce the sauce if it is too thin for your taste. Return the shredded chicken to the sauce and toss to coat.

https://flavorrd.com/2015/07/instant-pot-insta-chicken/

Instant Pot Recipe Index

[Instant Pot] Everyday Lentil & Spinach Dal

These days I do most of my recipe-clipping on Pinterest, but I still have a recipe folder on my browser’s bookmarks bar dating back from the days before ‘pinning’ was a household term (shocking, I know). There’s a smattering of links from all corners of the web, but the heart of the collection is a sub-folder marked “Tried and True,” which holds those special recipes that I’ve come back to again and again… the keepers, if you will! Along with the formula behind killer pumpkin garlic knots and the original source inspiring my favorite chili (which has been tweaked and perfected and eventually taken over as Grant’s kitchen specialty), this folder is also home to an unassuming yellow dal bookmarked from Smitten Kitchen. I made this recipe for the first time in college, just starting to dip my toes into Indian cooking, and I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve served it up since then!

This dish has been a dinner staple in my house for a lot of reasons. For one, the recipe is really straightforward, easy enough to commit to memory. It’s also super inexpensive. I do my best to cook with economy and grace, and these tasty lentils make it easy: all of the budget-friendly benefits of dried beans, but with no soaking needed. It’s a hearty vegetarian (easily vegan) source of protein – about 14 grams per serving, before the yogurt garnish. And those healthy legumes are filled out with plenty of vegetables and nutritious spices. I’ve been putting more focus on anti-inflammatory foods in my diet lately, and the turmeric, cumin, coriander, cayenne and garlic in this recipe all offer functional health benefits to reduce inflammation in the body. This is definitely an example of getting your flavor from real food, and this enticing combination is so nutritious that it’s practically medicinal!

Continue reading “[Instant Pot] Everyday Lentil & Spinach Dal”

[Instant Pot] Pressure-Steamed Artichokes

The artichoke: nature’s finger food.

Au naturale. Simply steamed. Is any other plain vegetable quite so botanically romantic? Maybe it’s the delicately sweet flavor. Maybe it’s because they love cool, salty California air, like I do. Maybe it’s because you’re literally eating a dang flower! Whatever it is, sitting down to share an artichoke is something special.

Unfortunately, the things have a reputation for being a pain to prepare – their tough structures definitely need some cooking before they’re ready to melt in your mouth. On the stove top, you’re looking at upwards of 40 minutes of babysitting the pot, making sure the water level doesn’t boil too low. This is where Instant Pot comes in (affiliate link). With my favorite set-and-forget pressure cooker on hand, the task really isn’t fussy at all.

Continue reading “[Instant Pot] Pressure-Steamed Artichokes”

[Instant Pot] Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes

How much tradition do you like on your Thanksgiving table? Is it just not the same without your family heirloom recipes for turkey, stuffing and green bean casserole? Or do you prefer to flex your creative muscles and trick out your menu with fancy stuff like cranberry coulis or pumpkin panna cotta? Personally, I fall somewhere in the middle. Traditional flavors, but with enough twist to keep things interesting. Right at home on my holiday table? These dreamy Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes.

Continue reading “[Instant Pot] Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes”

[Instant Pot] Vegan Caribbean Coconut Curry

Had a hard week? You need an easy weeknight dinner. Fortunately for us, this one is packed with nutrient dense vegetables and layers of slow-cooked flavors… without the slow-cooking. The veggies all cook quickly, so there’s no advance planning needed. Just a little therapeutic chopping and simmering while you decompress from the challenges of the day, and you can have this wholesome vegan dinner on the table in no time.

If you’re a seasoned Caribbean foodie, please note that I’m not claiming any authenticity. When I dreamed up this stew, I was going for a hearty foundation of powerful plant foods, tempered with tropical coconut milk and some warm spices as my simplified allusion to Jamaican jerk-style seasoning. Authentic cuisine? Not exactly. Super satisfying healthy dinner? Most definitely!

Continue reading “[Instant Pot] Vegan Caribbean Coconut Curry”

[Instant Pot] Greek Vegetable Soup

A funny thing happened on the way to writing this post. We’re only here talking about this soup today because two months ago on RD Day, I took the opportunity to scope out a list of fellow RD bloggers. On one of the many links I clicked, I came across a giveaway raffle and entered on a whim. And out of the zillion entries, I actually won! That day I gained an awesome new Mediterranean cookbook, and my first glimpse into what has become one of my new favorite RD blogs, Zen and Spice by the talented Emily Hein. This girl inspires me to live right! If you’re like me and love cooking/eating beautiful whole foods, growing some of them yourself, and generally taking a mindful and appreciative approach to it all, you should definitely check it out!

The book that I won in the giveaway is Eating the Greek Way, by Dr. Fedon Alexander Lindberg. Emily mentioned that this is one of her favorite cookbooks, and I can totally see why. The book features gorgeous photos and recipes featuring the kind of simple but perfect food I can imagine being served up in Mediterranean kitchens on real life weeknights. And now in my kitchen too! On my weeknights! Life is grand.

Continue reading “[Instant Pot] Greek Vegetable Soup”

[Instant Pot] Tamale Party!

Cinco de Mayo is coming up – and while I don’t exactly have a vested interest in commemorating the military victories of our neighbors to the south, I will take any excuse to appreciate delicious Mexican food.

A while back, I read about a technique for pressure cooking tamales, and it caught my attention. It seemed like a fun/different way to take advantage of the pressure cooker, and I had been waiting for a reason to try it out.

Basically… excuse to eat Mexican food + excuse to play with Instant Pot = TAMALE PARTY, AMIGOS.

Continue reading “[Instant Pot] Tamale Party!”

[Instant Pot] Chicken Tortilla Soup

Today I’m pulling through on my promise to share my successes with Instant Pot, my new electric pressure cooker (you can read more about my pressure-cooking obsession here). It’s been a revolutionary addition to my kitchen, but unfortunately for my readers its major role has been to constantly churn out oatmeal, rice, beans, and other essential staples too boring to blog about. But my favorite appliance is so much more than that! So I’m glad I finally got my act together to write up a recipe that puts Instant Pot in the spotlight.

But if you’re not into pressure-cooking, that’s no reason to pass over this recipe. I’ve been making this soup for years before I got wacky about pressurizing my foods. The flavors develop just as well after a simmer on the stovetop, and the process is still totally easy for a weeknight.

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