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.

How to Make an Awesome Sandwich

Welp, it’s been about three months since I last did a post on food so this time, instead of How to Make an Awesome Salad, I bring you: How to Make an Awesome Sandwich.

Now, I know I am not the type of blog people turn to when it comes to recipes or crafts or anything homemakery. However, I’m a decent cook in general (though of the non-recipe following variety). I want to say among my friends, I am known to be really good at making soups, salads, and sandwiches.

I have to say, I often forget about the sandwich as a meal option (mostly because my kids don’t eat them), but when I do, I always tell myself I should make them more often because it is quick, easy, and tasty.

Here then, is my general formula for a really tasty sandwich:

Awesome Sandwich Formula

1) Something to hold the sandwich together
2) Something crunchy
3) Something protein
4) Something savory
5) Something spready
6) Something fatty
7) Something juicy

Now, you don’t have to have something in every category, but I want to say you need at least 4-5 for a truly delicious sandwich. And when you manage to have all categories, you have a memorable sandwich. (And many of these items can be combined. Eg: bacon is both crunchy, savory, fatty, AND protein!)

To make things easy for you, I am now going to list some possible things (as idea kick starters) in each category.

1) Something to hold the sandwich together – Totally obvious, but something to hold the sandwich is needed. Otherwise, it’s a salad. (True fact: I pretty much make my salads the same way I make my sandwiches except that I add a lot more fruit.)

– Bread (any kind, really – there are SO many kinds! They all work!)
– Naan (toasted is even better!)
– Tortilla (for a wrap instead of a “sandwich”)
– Croissants
– Pita
– Biscuits/Bread rolls
– Lettuce (if you’re avoiding carbs, lettuce also holds things together)
– Donuts

2) Something crunchy – Mostly vegetables, can also be a combo category with savory and protein.

– Some types of lettuce
– Celery (personally, not a favorite)
– Carrots
– Jicama
– Bell peppers
– Cucumbers/pickles
– Banana peppers
– Bacon
– Bean sprouts
– Onions
– Apple slices
– Seeds (pumpkin, sunflower)
– Nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans, candied ones are awesome, too!)

3) Something protein – Usually a meat or an egg, or nuts and seeds. Pro Tip: if you’re using deli meat, roll them up instead of laying them flat on the sandwich. You might use the same number of slices, but for some reason, when they’re rolled up, it’s SO MUCH BETTER. Pro Tip 2: Nothing improves a sandwich more than putting an over-medium fried egg on top of it.

– Bacon
– Salami
– Chicken (I like to use leftover Costco rotisserie chicken)
– Deli meat/ham
– Egg (scrambled, sliced and hard boiled, over medium, etc.)
– Smoked salmon
– Leftover steak/pork/whatever
– Sausage/brats
– Seeds (pumpkin, sunflower)
– Nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans, candied)

4) Something savory – This is usually a combo category since meats, spreads, and cheeses all fit the bill. Pickled vegetables (eg: artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, olives, etc.) are a nice kick. You could also substitute savory with spicy, too.

5) Something spready – This usually refers to stuff you spread on the bread (ie: condiments), but it can also include things like chicken salad or pesto.

– Chicken/Tuna salad
– Pesto
– Mayo (or Japanese spicy mayo, or sriracha mayo, or any fancy mayo with a kick)
– Grey Poupon/mustard
– Nut/Seed butters (Not just for PBJs)
– Jam/Jellies (Not just for PBJs)

6) Something fatty – My FAVORITE category!

– Bacon
– Cheeses (goat cheese, blue cheese, shoot, in a pinch, string cheese)
– Avocado
– Egg
– Nuts/Seeds
– Certain cuts of meat (like pork belly)

7) Something juicy – In my mind, this refers to tomatoes (nothing better than a beefy, heirloom tomato), or a runny egg yolk. But apples and other types of crisp fruits count, too.

Pro tip 3: You can also include seeds, nuts, and fruits (dried or fresh) – either in a salad type of spread (eg: chicken salad), or just sprinkled onto the sandwich. It does make things a bit crumbly though.

If you’re feeling fancy and/or Subway sandwichesque, you can also add a dressing. Here’s my salad dressing from my previous post. But honestly, I personally think a dressing is a bit of an overkill. (Plus, you run the risk of the bread getting soggy – which is the WORST.)

Easy Salad Dressing Recipe

1) 1 part olive oil
2) 1 part seasoned rice vinegar
3) salt/pepper/garlic powder/white pepper to taste
4) optional: sesame oil, teriyaki sauce, soy sauce, Memmi soup base, dijon mustard

If this post seems almost exactly like my salad post, you’re right. It is. Except now there is something to hold the sandwich together instead of a bowl.

And since you can likely tell I cribbed most of this post from my previous one, we might as well end the same way: Alright, that’s it. If this takes you more than 10 minutes to make, it’s too hard! Enjoy!

How To Make An Awesome Salad

In general, I do not do food related posts. Mostly because I would rather eat the food than talk about it. Also, I lack the foodie vocabulary and resort to derivatives such as “OMGYUM!” to describe food. How a post can only consist of NOMS and DELISH, I don’t know. Hence, other than the occasional Taiwan food posts, I don’t do recipes, restaurant reviews, etc. Also, I am usually too busy eating and don’t remember to take a picture until the majority of the meal is in my belly. Sorrynotsorry.

Regular readers may also be under the impression that I don’t cook or hate to cook. I’m actually a pretty good cook – but not the kind you write home about. And certainly not the kind to follow recipes. I am the open-the-fridge-crap-what-do-we-have-that-can-turn-into-food type of cook. Which is good in the impulsive, not restricted to recipe way, but really bad for menu planning and any sort of long term food planning. As a result, I also waste a lot of food.

In general, I take after my mother in the sense that if something takes longer than 30 minutes to prepare, we are probably only going to be eating it at a restaurant or someone else’s house. That’s why I usually make soups, salads, and sandwiches. (Ok, I forget about salads and sandwiches because I never grew up with them as real meal options, but I’m trying to eat better so they’re back on the radar.)

As you may know, I host a lot of playdates, and often, the playdates overlap with lunch. So occasionally, I will make a soup, salad, or sandwiches for everyone to share. I usually get a round of compliments, so whether they are just being polite or they actually love it, that is debatable.

However, even Hapa Papa corroborates my friends (again, I suppose he is an extremely biased reporter – especially if he ever wants to eat again), so I consider these three items my fortés.

In fact, this is how I know I make a fantastic salad. My mother, who used to hate salads and find them bland and disgusting, now loves salads. (Well, the kind I make, anyway.) When I moved back in with my mother in 2004, I was very excited because I thought I would finally have delicious home cooked meals for dinner. And I did, for a time. Then, one day, I made the mistake of introducing my mother to the salad.

She was not at all interested. And to be fair, I didn’t like most salads except for those fancy $10 salads at nice restaurants – and even then, it was hit or miss. But I knew what I liked in the salads I did enjoy, so I put them in my salads. So, I made my mom a salad and she liked it so much, she had it again for dinner the next day. And the next. And the next.

In true fact, my mother liked the ease and taste of the salads so much that for the next two years (and possibly more since I’ve moved out), she eats salads almost every night.

I was so sad because no matter how awesome my salads are, I cannot eat them every night. And I sadly waved my hot cooked meal goodbye.

salad

Kale/spinach mix, cherry tomato mix, fuji apple, sprouted pumpkin seeds, turkey deli meat

Despite the sad story ending, I do still make a great salad, so without further ado and prefacing and whatnot, I bring you my Surefire Formula to make an awesome salad. (I would say salad recipe, but again, I don’t do recipes. Just general guidelines.)

Awesome Salad Formula

1) Salad mix
2) Something sweet
3) Something savory
4) Something tart
5) Something crunchy
6) Something fatty
7) Something protein
8) Make it colorful

I want to say you need at least 4 out of 8 of these items to make a good salad, and if you hit more than that, you are nearing awesome. (And many of these items can be combined. Eg: bacon is both crunchy, savory, fatty, AND protein!) 

Also, I would make the ratio of leaves to stuff about 1:1. So the leaves should only make up half the salad. If you have more leaves than that, it’s just too leafy for my taste. Any more than that and what you have is a fruit salad with some leaves. 

To make things easy for you, I am now going to list some possible things (as idea kick starters) in each category.

1) Salad Mix – Whatever kind of leaves you like. Spring mix, baby spinach, kale, whatever!

2) Something Sweet – Almost any type of fruit (except perhaps, banana), either fresh or dried. Some sweeter vegetables.
– apples, oranges, pears, tangerines, mandarins, peaches, nectarines, grapes, strawberries, any berries, apricots, raisins, mangoes, pineapples, persimmons, pomegranate seeds, tomatoes, etc.
– corn, bell peppers, cucumbers, carrots

3) Something Savory – This is usually a combo category since nuts, meats, and cheeses all fit the bill. Pickled vegetables (eg: artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, olives, etc.) are a nice kick. You could also substitute savory with spicy, too.

4) Something Tart – This is also usually a combo category with the tarter type fruits (eg: oranges, pineapples, not fully ripe berries) or the salad dressing (which usually has seasoned vinegar or lemon/lime juice)

5) Something Crunchy – Again, a combo category with savory and protein. Also, vegetables.
– Seeds (pumpkin, sunflower), nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans,  candied ones are awesome, too!)
– celery (personally, not a favorite), carrots, jicama, bell peppers, corn, cucumbers, etc.

6) Something Fatty – My FAVORITE category! Includes most nuts (see above), bacon, cheeses (goat cheese, blue cheese, shoot, in a pinch, string cheese), and how could I forget about the avocado! 

7) Something Protein – Usually a meat, nuts, or seeds
– bacon, salami, chicken (I like to use leftover Costco rotisserie chicken), deli meat, ham, and of course, the incredible, edible egg (scrambled, hard boiled, mostly hard boiled, over medium)

8) Make it Colorful – This is more for presentation purposes. (Well, I suppose nutritionists also say we should eat colorful foods for the antioxidants – but in my case, it is purely for the pretty.) I try to get a good range of reds, whites, greens, blues, oranges. It just pops and when things look pretty, they taste yummy! (And in the case of salads, I sometimes think they need all the help they can get.)

Then, all you have to do is add my super easy salad dressing (which of course, is also more formula than recipe):

Easy Salad Dressing Recipe

1) 1 part olive oil
2) 1 part seasoned rice vinegar
3) salt/pepper/garlic powder/white pepper to taste
4) optional: sesame oil, teriyaki sauce, soy sauce, Memmi soup base, dijon mustard

Alright, that’s it. If this takes you more than 10 minutes to make, it’s too hard! Enjoy!