Suck It Up, April

How is April mostly over?

You know what this means, right? 1/3 of 2017 is over. That just sounds wrong.

As usual, here is my monthly check in to see how I’m doing with my yearly goals, aka: My Year of Sucking it Up.

1) Take family and personal health seriously.

What does that look like? I want to:

a) Cook at least 5 meals a week.
Still doing well in this category. I was getting a little bored with my cooking, but whatever. At least we are eating.

Oh, the new thing I did was pre-made two dozen hard boiled eggs in the Instant Pot. That way, I can quickly add protein to a dish (it has to be separately added because Glow Worm is allergic to eggs) and Gamera LOVES eggs but rarely gets them so she is in Heaven. Hapa Papa is really happy about it, too.

I am a bit disappointed in myself this month, though. I have personally eaten out more, but my kids haven’t. It has been mostly once a week, but that is more than I would like.

b) Be active once a week.

Ha! Next.

Does watching my children be active count?

d) Take vitamins and supplements.

Again, I’m still remembering to take these most days. I consider it a win.

e) Go to sleep when the kids sleep 4x a week.

Better than last month, though I have yet to sleep early 4x a week. But I do sleep when the kids sleep at least a couple times a week.

Sadly, STILL TIRED.

f) No texting while driving.

I did better this month although I slipped up again near the end of the month.

One good thing about these posts is that I catch myself texting or reverting to my naughty ways and I force myself to stop because I don’t want to tell you guys how I am endangering my life, my children’s lives, as well as the lives of other people.

2) Take my responsibilities as a grown up seriously.

Pretty sure I did a bunch of unpleasant adulting. I even got a handyman and a housecleaner.

Hey. Part of adulting is delegating.

WIN.

3) Write.

I did awesome this month!

I finished writing and editing my ebook!!! I finished the first draft of my action plan that goes with the ebook!!! I wrote a bunch of posts!

And get this. I got my first sponsored post! (You will get to read it Friday.)

And I also volunteered to write for a few friends’ sites as well as swap posts with some other sites so look out for those next month.

So excite!

Alright. That’s it for this month. How did you do for April? Let me know in the comments.

Chinese Progress: 9 Months After Taiwan


Has it really been nine months since we got back from Taiwan? That’s a PREGNANCY, people!

Anyhow, I meant to do an update earlier and keep better track of when my children made the switch from Chinese default to English default, but that would have required me to pay far greater attention to my children than I am wont to do.

So, I want to say the kids kept up their Chinese for about five or six months before they started to backslide into English a lot. And the only reason it kept up for that long is because we homeschool in Chinese, the majority of their classes are in Chinese, and for awhile, all they did was watch Chinese YouTube.

Just to give you an idea of how quickly they can convert to English only, for our Spring Break, I had the older kids in a basketball camp as well as a cooking camp. Thus, they were surrounded by English speakers and spoke English for six hours a day for five consecutive days.

The effect was almost instantaneous.

It was all English all the time. And not only that – their English improved.

I tried to combat it with listening to Chinese stories in the car, but we really didn’t drive much so they didn’t hear much Chinese at all that week. I can only imagine how much their English would outpace their Chinese if we were not homeschooling in Chinese.

This is all just to say that the after glow of Taiwan was only sustainable for so long because we homeschool in Chinese as well as have the majority of their classes in Chinese. 

I cannot say that the Chinese effect would be as pronounced or sustainable if they went to an English speaking school surrounded by English speakers all day.

Thus, the main thing to remember is that the majority of your work is done with your kids if you just speak Chinese to them already.

Alright, without further ado, here are some of my observations that have definitely been blurred by the effects of time and life.

1) Glow Worm’s (3.5) Chinese has exploded. I mean, so has his English. (He FINALLY speaks!) But in general, his Chinese has 開竅了 (kai qiao4 le5)/for a child to begin to know things.

This is also not because of anything special about Taiwan, but more because he goes to a Chinese preschool twice a week as well as a Mandarin Mommy and Me once a week. Just the addition of two days with a Chinese tutor has upped his vocabulary a lot.

I can’t wait for how it will improve after our Taiwan Trip 2017 as well as when he adds 2-3 additional days of Chinese preschool.

2) Gamera (5), easily the child with the best Chinese, has started to resist speaking Chinese all the time. Even when I try to couch it in terms of helping Glow Worm and Sasquatch (5.5 mos) learn Chinese, she doesn’t really care.

Her default and stronger language is definitely English – and she wants to keep speaking it when playing.

However, her Chinese is still really good. I’m constantly amazed how when admonished to speak Chinese, she can switch from English to Chinese mid-sentence and finish the thought. She is truly bilingual in the sense that she doesn’t have to think about what to say in English first, then translate into Chinese. She just speaks her thoughts in Chinese.

I have noticed that the loss of three days of Chinese preschool and being home with me more has affected her Chinese ability (and not for the better). But because she still watches a lot of Chinese YouTube (especially Chinese game shows and variety shows and Chinese YouTube acts), her Chinese can often be better than mine.

3) Cookie Monster (7) definitely prefers English, but still dutifully switches to Chinese when told. He just needs more vocabulary to express his thoughts – and he would have that vocabulary if I were not so lazy about him reading consistently to me in Chinese.

Just one day of Chinese class is not enough. It’s ok in terms of preventing more attrition, but not enough in terms of gaining in Chinese. Even his teacher has mentioned to me several times that he is regressing and forgetting characters.

This is definitely my fault.

Plus, he doesn’t find the Chinese programming as interesting as Gamera does (although he is also obsessed with TF Boys like his siblings).

It definitely shows.

4) At least Cookie Monster and Gamera are good about speaking Chinese to their peers who only speak Chinese. They know that they can only speak to Guavarama and Fleur’s kids (as well as some of our other Chinese homeschool kids) in Chinese.

This, of course, only works because all the children have similar levels of Chinese fluency (albeit, better than my kids) and can express and play adequately in Chinese. If my kids’ Chinese were not up to snuff (or vice versa), the play language would default to English in a red hot second.

Thus, I am ashamed I did not capitalize more on our trip to Taiwan last year. We’ve had a good run, but we definitely will need the boost when we head to Taiwan again this summer. Unfortunately, this time we will only be back for four weeks. I’m sure the missing two weeks will equate to an even earlier Chinese language cliff.

This is especially important to note because I am not going back to Taiwan in 2018. (Yes, I plan this far ahead. No, YOU take an 18 month old with three other children to Taiwan.)

I need to remember in Summer 2018 to not go overboard with English camps/programming and to find ways they can be “immersed” in Chinese.

Anyhow, I hope this update was helpful in terms of giving you an idea of how long the Chinese boosting effects of an extended trip to Taiwan might last. Of course, YMMV.

Did you find this true for your children? Let me know in the comments.

Slowly, Slowly

Two weeks ago, I wrote about how I felt as if the “shine” on my “new” life had worn off already and we were back at my baseline of meh. Well, it’s gotten a bit better.

Now, I am under no illusion that this time, the shine will stay forever, but I do feel somewhat better. Mostly because I chose to do something about it versus do nothing and stay in that uncomfortable place any longer.

Of course, we do not always have the ability to get out of a funk just by doing stuff. Sometimes, our environment and life conspire against us. But generally, I have found that doing nothing keeps me stuck – whereas doing something shortens the duration of my malaise.

So, what has happened in the intervening two weeks?

I got off my ass. Proverbially speaking, of course.

Despite a bout of the barfs hitting Cookie Monster and Gamera, because our weekends finally freed up and Hapa Papa was a peach and let me disappear for most of a weekend, I kicked ass and took some names!

I finished proofing and writing my ebook – as well as the action plan I tricked Guavarama into outlining for me. (Don’t worry. She gets credited and paid!)

I even got my first gig reviewing a product – so look out for that!

I scheduled a house cleaner to come by and give an estimate. And let me just tell you. This dour Eastern European woman came to my house and judged my squalor. Judge away, lady! Just take my money and clean my bathrooms and kitchen, please! The rest of the house can go to shit.

I finally got someone in to re-grout my shower – only to be told that it didn’t need to be re-grout at all. Only needed them get rid of and then re-seal something. YAAAAAAAY! And it only cost me $60.

Plus, I found an awesome new handyman who will get started on all my honey-dos as soon as I get him my list. (I have it. Just have to send it and perhaps buy things for it.)

But the best part is that now, I do not get irrationally angry every time I take a shower.

I even managed to read a book and two graphic novels.

So, despite the barfs (OMG the BARFS), and my having a really rotten cold, things are looking up.

I feel productive.

And really, I think that is the key to me getting out most of my funks. Sometimes, being productive can just be taking care of all my miscellaneous things. But since I was on top of that already, it no longer was a new sensation so didn’t give me that pop of YAY!

Anyhow, I know I’m slow at acting like a grown up. But eventually, I’ll get there. Hopefully, before my children turn into grown ups.

Super short post today, friends. I just wanted to give a quick update on the state of Mandarin Mama and my sadz.

How do YOU get out of your BLAHs? Let me know in the comments.

How the Instant Pot Changed My Life (and How I Use It)

This year, one of my resolutions was to eat healthier – but that is so vague. So I said that I would cook 5 meals a week and limit eating out to once a week. We used to be at McDonald’s twice a week.

TWICE A WEEK.

I wasn’t exactly proud of turning my children’s blood into sludge. But it was hard and stressful to think of cooking twice a day for my shitty kids (we homeschool so I don’t get the option of a school lunch).

This year THUS FAR, since I started using the Instant Pot, we have been to McDonald’s twice and Burger King once. (I have eaten out a few more times, but not at these places. And definitely without the children.)

When I look at these numbers, I am astounded.

Let us pause here and give me the praise and adulation I need and crave (but not necessarily deserve).

Thank you.

Anyhow. HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?

1) I decided to make this change in our lifestyle and I set an easily attainable goal of cooking just five times a week.

Even though part of my goal was to NOT eat out (or nuggets/pizza/crackers), it is hard to track “negative space.” So instead, I tracked “positive space” and recorded in my ink+volt planner when I cooked.

And after awhile, it became easier and easier to cook and I added more and more until it was silly to track the times I cooked because quite frankly, that was now my default mode.

2) I knew that since I am inherently lazy, I needed to support my decision by setting myself up to succeed instead of fail.

So, I came up with some Instant Pot hacks as well as followed a basic formula because I hate recipes and meal planning.

These hacks and soup templates are boring but honestly, I’m not trying for creative here. I only want to make sure my family has reasonably tasty and nutritious food at least twice a day.

3) Cook. Eat what I cook.

Yes, I need to specify eating what I cook because I used to be notorious for not eating the food I made and thus, I would go out to eat a lot after the kids were in bed.

And that’s it. As a result, here is how my life has changed:

1) Thinking about what we are going to eat for lunch and dinner no longer plagues me throughout the day.

I am not exaggerating when I say the thoughts of what we were going to eat for lunch and dinner were so painful that I would avoid it entirely and then my kids would end up eating quesodillas or nuggets or pizza yet again.

And now that I no longer think about it, this psychic pain is gone and I am much more cheerful. Plus, the kids now have consistent meals and meal times and are much better about eating food.

2) My children eat.

This is another minor miracle.

Now that my children are used to eating what I cook, they eagerly (although sometimes, not so eagerly) ask what’s for lunch or dinner. They also like to help prepare the food and look at the soups and noodles.

Keep in mind, we went through a really rough two to three weeks where the kids absolutely refused to eat what I cooked. But after that ramping up/initiation period, my kids actually eat the food I put in front of them. I mean, they’re not perfect, but it’s still a million bjillion times better than it used to be.

Thus, another source of conflict and pain has been mostly removed.

3) I can now train my kids to put away their bowls into the dishwasher.

Now that the eating dilemma has been solved and I am no longer emotionally exhausted from trying to get them to eat their damn food already, I am training them to bring their used bowls/cups/utensils to the sink.

The older kids also rinse them off and I am training Cookie Monster to put his stuff in the dishwasher. In fact, they are at this weird stage where they want to wash dishes and put things away in the dishwasher or put things back where they belong.

So weird. But hey. Who am I to complain and deprive them of wanting to be more independent and responsible?

4) I spend less money on eating out and groceries.

Because I am now consistently cooking, I no longer throw away 100% of the produce I buy. Thus, I waste less food and spend less money on groceries. Now, I buy only what we need and resist the urge to “stock up.”

5) Eating out is no longer as appealing.

The food tastes different, too. Now, I sometimes try to see how long I can go without eating out.

WHO AM I?

6) I am much happier. 

First, because I no longer feel guilty about mealtimes – whether it be over not serving the kids any nutrition whatsoever or not eating with the children or yelling at them to eat their food already – I don’t have to deal with that pain of not being a good mother.

Second, I no longer feel the psychic pain of planning or procrastinating or figuring out what we will eat. It’s boring, but I don’t care. I follow my formula and perhaps make three or four other dishes that we rotate throughout the week. 

Third, I have much less pain involving my children eating. They are mostly used to the things I make now and will even eat the vegetables. 

Now, all the pain revolves around my kids fidgeting or playing instead of eating during meal times. But this is still considerably less painful than it was before. 

Alright, friends. I think that is the last of my love letters to the Instant Pot. If you have an Instant Pot, are you as enamored as I am? Let me know in the comments. 

Instant Pot Hacks

Everyone knows I am a super lazy person – especially when it comes to cooking (or doing anything, really). Last week I wrote about my Awesome Instant Pot Soup/Stew Templates instead of recipes (because I hate recipes).

This week comes courtesy of my hatred of meal planning.

No, seriously. I hate meal planning. The idea of it totally stresses me out. The idea of having everything planned out ahead of time and buying things for the meals/recipes goes hand in hand with my absolute hatred of recipes and quite frankly, meal planning always sounded like a really white people thing to do. I cannot imagine meal planning with Chinese food.

Also, my mother was able to buy a bunch of ingredients and then look at her fridge every day and then make a bunch of stuff with whatever was available. That is how I think cooking should be and how I cook.

Of course, this type of cooking ALSO stresses me out, so make of this what you will.

But enter the Instant Pot (affiliate link) and my life has transformed.

I am not exaggerating (although I am wont to exaggeration).

I’m not exactly clear on how we used to eat, but it sure wasn’t from me cooking. I’m pretty sure at the end of 2016, my children were 1/3 chicken nugget, 1/3 pizza, and 1/3 miscellany. Thank goodness for vitamins because otherwise my children would have received zero nutrition at all.

As it is, I think my children are also half cacti because they seemed to have grown from just spritzes of water and air and no actual, real food.

Anyhow, I went from slowly using my Instant Pot once or twice a week to at least every week day and sometimes twice a day. But the only reason I can is because I have absolutely zero prep time.

Okokokokok. In reality, that is not really true. But I want to say it is 99% true.

Anyhow, here are my “hacks” for using the Instant Pot with minimal effort. (I say hacks in quotes because I’m not really sure I’m using the term correctly but I can’t think of a better word so this will have to suffice). (Oh, and all links are affiliate links. They don’t affect the price you pay, but should you buy from them, it allows me to contribute modestly to my web site fees.)

1) Prep food ahead of time and freeze in individual serving sizes. 

So, this is the part that takes a lot of time. But it’s not every day – and not even weekly. It’s mostly on an as needed basis.

First, I bought a ton of Ziploc small and medium rectangular containers.

Since I tend to overthink things, I want you to know that it took me almost a YEAR of thinking and contemplating storage solutions to food prep. I considered using Ziploc baggies, but I found that wasteful and I didn’t want to contribute more plastic to the oceans. I thought of using my Glasslock containers, but I didn’t like the idea of frozen glass and me buying more of those things.

I also considered using plastic containers, but I didn’t like BPAs and wasn’t sure if they were in the disposable ones. I thought of it so often that even Dr. T was like STOP THINKING ABOUT IT ALREADY AND ARE YOU REALLY USING PART OF YOUR $150/hr SESSION TO DISCUSS THIS??

So, one day while I was already in Safeway, I saw these containers and bought a bunch of them. I have not regretted it. (In general, I prefer the medium containers because I find them to be the perfect serving size for one pot of soup for five people.)

I also use large gallon sized Ziploc bags, too. But I reuse them because I fill them with things that don’t make a mess (eg: cut celery, daikon, broccoli).

After finally deciding on the storage containers, I will buy meat from Costco and then cut and marinate and then put in the medium containers. I will also chop vegetables that freeze well. Then I put them either in the large gallon Ziploc bags or in the small containers.

I have also cut up ginger into slices and frozen them because I have never used up fresh ginger before it turned weird or shriveled up and died.

Then, I put them in the freezer and freeze them. And since the Instant Pot cooks frozen meat just fine, (although it does retain the SHAPE of the frozen meat), there is no need to defrost first.

Note: If you don’t enjoy mushy vegetables that taste like your soup, you perhaps shouldn’t freeze your veggies. But since I don’t mind and don’t care, it serves my purposes just fine.

2) Buy prepared or prepackaged foods. 

I know this isn’t strictly cooking from scratch, but quite frankly, I don’t care.

I am not a purist. I have no shame in buying things that have been prepackaged for my convenience.

Thus, I buy packs of sausage, premade rotisserie chicken, peeled garlic, bags of broccoli, cauliflower rice, frozen vegetable mixes, pasta sauce, tofu, chicken stock, coconut milk, etc.

3) Buy foods that freeze well, don’t spoil quickly in the fridge, or are dry goods that can last a long time.

I used to throw away so much produce that it would’ve saved me time to just compost dollar bills. So now, I only buy things that don’t spoil easily, can freeze well, or are dry goods that last awhile.

4) You can put pretty much anything in the Instant Pot and it will come out just fine in stew.

Because the Instant Pot obliterates everything under high pressure, I have found that I can pretty much put ANYTHING in there with my soups/stews and it will turn out mostly delicious.

This may sound gross and was a total fluke, but since I was trying to clear out my deep freezer of things that have lived there since before Gamera was born (that’s over five years for those of you keeping track at home), I LOVE using frozen tater tots in my soups.

Other things I have put in the Instant Pot that initially sounded weird but turned out fine and completely unnoticed: stale bread and frozen sweet potato fries (I had 5 bags of these suckers and my kids HATE them as fries but didn’t mind them as obliterated parts of soup).

There you have it!

Unless I am adding an ingredient I haven’t frozen ahead of time, all that cooking requires of me is dumping a bunch of frozen serving sizes (usually a veggie, a protein, a carb), some stock/coconut milk/water, and seasonings into the Instant Pot, hitting a button, and walking away.

I know none of these ideas are revolutionary, but they have made it possible for me to make lunch and/or dinner in less than five minutes on a daily basis. And though it took a few weeks for my children to get used to the new world order, they are now used to eating home cooked meals and are now 1/4 veggies, 1/4 protein, 1/4 rice, 1/8 fruit, and 1/8 miscellany.

Do you use the Instant Pot? If so, what are your tricks to using it on a regular basis?

Somehow, I Thought I Would Be Better


Here’s the thing. I actually feel somewhat embarrassed admitting this, but it’s where I’m at right now.

I thought it would be different.

I thought it would be better.

I thought I would be different.

I thought I would be better.

But truthfully, although things got better briefly, better eventually just became the new normal.

You see, for years, my main pains in life were the daily minutiae of which a life is made.

You know the sort.

Cooking meals. Cleaning the house. Paying bills. Sorting mail. Keeping the kitchen table clutter free. (hahahahah! Like THAT is ever going to last or happen for longer than a day or two.)

And FINALLY, these past three months, I have been making big strides. I now cook the majority of my meals and a lot of my psychic pain revolving around meal times is gone.

I’ve given up on cleaning the house, but I have vacuumed a few times, and decluttered a few times (and I could really do it a few more times), and I am finally now considering getting a housecleaner again because my house is probably filthy I’m just accustomed to its filthiness.

I sort the mail and take care of any outstanding medical bills immediately (because those are the only ones that are not on autopay – despite my best efforts to make them so). I mean, gone are the days of being 90-180 days late for no reason other than not opening mail.

But after a few months (and likely a few weeks) of my new reality, the shine has worn off and now it’s just regular old reality and I’M STILL DISSATISFIED WITH MY LIFE.

Damn you, hedonic treadmill!

And last Friday, I was talking with Dr. T about how I feel unfulfilled and like I do nothing of substance all day and how I’m still not done with my ebook despite being 95% done and how I start things but don’t finish them and how I want to try for things but I am so afraid of failure and —

And you know what? I’m terribly worried that even if I do finish that ebook that a few weeks later and it will be my new normal again and I will go about feeling BLAH about my life again. 

The irony is that during the first or second session ever with Dr. T, she mentioned that she thought some of my feelings of stress and whatever was due to my not having a clear idea of what my identity was. That it used to be tied up in work or the things I did or accomplished, and now that I am a SAHM, I felt adrift and identiy-less.

At the time, I thought she was full of crap.

Oh, the crow I eat whenever it comes to things Dr. T observes. (Seriously, the only really good decision I ever made about Dr. T and her advice was sticking with her despite me thinking her kinda woowoo at the beginning.)

And now, here I am. TOTALLY FEELING UNIDENTIFIED.

I felt somewhat comforted the other day when I saw an old post of mine pop up in Facebook Memories. I guess this is how I feel every spring.

But then, I got bummed out because it seems that no matter what I do, no matter how many successes or risks I take, it all goes back to me being terrified of failure and being immobilized by it.

I start so many things only for them to end up abandoned and collecting dust in the wayside.

I have so many ambitions and yet so little follow through.

I feel as if life is passing me by and I can’t even get my shit together enough to homeschool my children.

I feel like a huge failure. 

I don’t know if it’s my Virgo-ness, my ESFJ-ness, my Type 7 Enneagram-ness, or something else entirely (FWIW, I hold very low stock in astrological determiners of personality), but there it is.

And it’s no use telling me how I manage to keep four children alive, blah blah blah blah blah.

In my wretched mind, if I can do it, it’s not that hard, therefore it doesn’t really deserve praise.

Truthfully, I don’t know what will make me feel better. And whether if something makes me feel better, whether the feeling will be permanent or just become the new baseline.

All I know is that I feel kinda meh and blah right now.

Maybe this is how I feel every spring. Restless and desiring bigger and better things. And then life crushes it all out of me.

Anyhow, there is no neat resolution to this post. I’m still figuring it out.

Dr. T asked me what I wanted, and again, I have no idea. Except maybe to feel as if I am doing something worthwhile. (And yes, raising four small humans is eminently worthwhile – but the end result takes SO LONG.)

I want to feel as if I am productive; making something of concrete value and worth. Yet all day long, I do lots of things and am productive but it is the stuff of life. You can’t just eat once and then you’re done. (And that is DEFINITELY not possible with cleaning or laundering or the folding of the laundry.)

And so, each day, it feels as if all I did was erased and swept away by the tumult and happy clamor of my tiny and forceful humans.

It is very unsatisfactory.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m  not depressed. I’m not UNhappy. Just not SATISFIED.

I’m positive Hapa Papa is feeling the same thing (except perhaps slightly worse since he’s not very happy at his job and at least I have more free time than he does and get to stare at all my adorable babies all day).

And before people start writing in with the comments about me needing Jesus or essential oils or both, thanks. I have both. In abundance. (Seriously, I have an entire DRAWER full of oils. And I suppose I have Jesus in my heart or something. So admittedly, that might be in less abundance because I have a cold, dark heart.)

Anyhow, no neatly wrapped bow on this post because that’s not the way life works. We just keep trudging along until one day, we’re on the other side (and hopefully, feeling less blah when I actively pursue the things I think I want).

Have a good Wednesday! May you find what you’re looking for.

 

 

How to Use the Instant Pot if You Hate Recipes


Folks, I have a confession to make. I hate recipes.

I mean, I see their utility, and I have even used them on occasion. But in general, if it requires a recipe, you can pretty much be assured that I will never cook said item.

I’m always amused when I go to a friend’s house and eat something delicious they make and then they proceed to tell me the recipe or offer to send me the recipe. I always tell them, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

When I tell you I love what you made, that is not an invitation for you to give me the recipe. That is an invitation for you to make more of this awesome dish and bring it to my house at a later date.

Here’s why I hate recipes: it usually requires me to go out of my way to buy something that I do not have in my household. And if that is the case, whatever I buy is not something I use daily. And because of that, I will buy an item and then HAVE IT FOREVER UNTIL IT ROTS IN MY FRIDGE OR GOES STALE IN MY PANTRY.

Because I will likely never use it again.

Also? Recipes totally stress me out. All this reading and buying and prepping and following directions.

Have you ever tried doing any of those things – let alone ALL of those things – while having four small human beings demand your attention as soon as you might be doing something other than nothing?

And thus, though I bought into the hype about the Instant Pot (affiliate link) last summer on Prime Day, I knew that even though I purchased the technological and culinary wonder that I would never use it.

Yes, I know. My Rich Girl Syndrome is rearing its ugly head again. After all. Who buys an expensive appliance fully knowing they will never use it?

A person who has FOMO and discretionary income. That’s who.

Anyhow, I know the Instant Pot is super easy, blah blah blah and whatever but my main hurdle to actually using it was this: everything seemed to require a recipe. And all the recipes were for white people food.

Look, I love white people food as much as the next person but that is not what my brain says is real food for families. That is not what I grew up with, and though it is perfectly legitimate food (and OMG, if you bring it to my house, I will love you forever and eat it and compliment you and perhaps even write a blog post dedicated to your awesomeness), I will not make that food on the regular.

As a result, my poor Instant Pot languished on top of my laundry machine from July to December. That is, until my friend, Char Siu Bao, came over and told me I should buy an Instant Pot and I informed him that I own one that was still new in the box.

He made me dinner and told me lots of awesome delicious things I could make with the Instant Pot as I laughed at him because I would never make those awesome delicious things. But then Char Siu Bao said I could also just make soups.

I can make soups.

I make awesome soups.

And so, after five months of putting Baby in the corner, I started using my Instant Pot once a week, then twice a week, then almost every day (and sometimes twice a day).

And here’s how: I use a template.

Like my previous posts on How to Make an Awesome Salad and How to Make an Awesome Sandwich, I now add to this series with my How to Make an Awesome Instant Pot Soup/Stew.

Awesome Instant Pot Soup/Stew Template

1) Vegetable
2) Protein
3) Carbohydrate
4) Liquid
5) Season to taste
6) Hit the button and walk away

Since there are so few items, I want to say you really need all of them in order to make a well-balanced soup/stew. However, I think you can get away with fewer of the categories if say, you have two proteins or two vegetables and then skimp on carbohydrates.

Whatever.

Anyhow, to make it easy for you, here are some ideas for each category.

1) Vegetable – This really is easy. Any vegetable will do. I have used frozen vegetables, broccoli, diced napa cabbage, diced celery, carrots, daikon, etc.

In general, I go for veggies that will cook to clear (to better disguise the fact that they exist so that my children will eat them) as well soak up into whatever flavor the soup has (again, to disguise their existence). I also dice into smaller chunks because (you guessed it) it makes them more palatable to my ungrateful children.

2) Protein – Any meat, beans, or tofu.

3) Carbohydrate – Dried pasta (I usually add them into the IP with the rest of the ingredients), rice (usually made in the rice cooker), potatoes, sweet potatoes, barley, etc.

4) Liquid – Chicken/vegetable/beef stock/broth, water, coconut milk, etc.

5) Season to taste – I usually use salt, garlic powder, white pepper, garlic, and ginger. Sometimes, I also add soup base (Memmi soup base), soy sauce, or chili powder.

6) Hit the button and walk away. 

No seriously. That’s it. If I have raw meat, I hit the “Meat” button. If I have unsoaked dry beans, I hit the “Beans” button. Otherwise, I hit the “Soup” button. Or sometimes, I hit “Manual” and add whatever time I want.

Then I walk away until it beeps at me to tell me it’s done cooking.

See? Isn’t that not intimidating at all? You likely have all or most of these items in your fridge/pantry already! You can now commence instapotting.

Next week, a post on how I use “hacks” to make my Instant Pot experience even easier. In the meantime, are you a template/formula type of cook or a recipe follower? Let me know in the comments.