Adventures with an Instant Pot

I got an Instant Pot for Christmas! If you haven’t heard, Instant Pots are all the rage right now. It is a 7-in-1 multi-cooker that acts as a slow cooker, saute pan, pressure cooker, steamer, rice cooker, yogurt maker, and warmer.

It also has 14 smart built-in programs. With a touch of a button, you can set it to make Soup/Broth, Meat/Stew, Bean/Chili, Poultry, Sauté/Searing, Steam, Rice, Porridge, Multigrain, Slow Cook, Keep-Warm, Yogurt, Pasteurize & Pressure Cook. I have a slow cooker that I love using. But I think the IP will soon take it’s place because the IP is like a speedy version of a slow cooker! It can even cook frozen meats!

So far I’ve used my IP to make quinoa, a pot roast, and BBQ chicken chili, all of which came out delicious. Everything so far has been really easy, although I must admit at first I was a bit nervous about my IP exploding under pressure. However, there are many built-in safety features that prevent any mishaps.

To my surprise, these pots have a cult-like following. There are social media groups dedicated to them, one with 1 million+ members. To have this amount of support for a cooking method/product is comforting because whenever I am stumped on an IP issue, I just head to the internet. There are thousands of blogs and how-tos written about this thing, so it’s very easy to find what you’re looking for. The IP may be intimidating at first, but read the manual once and you will be a lot more comfortable the next time you use it.

Here are some posts I found helpful when learning about my IP.

Instant Pot 101 for Beginners: facebook group
10 Things to Know About Your Instant Pot
When to Use Quick Release or Natural Release
Skinny Taste Instant Pot Recipes

I have a feeling this contraption is going to change my cooking. As someone who hates meal prepping, I’m already finding the IP as an easy solution! Do you have an IP? Feel free to share some of your favorite tips and recipes down below!


Making My Own Veggie Burgers

A few weeks ago I went to a free cooking demo at the brand new Honest Weight Food Co-op in Albany. It is a gorgeous new store that just opened, with a big kitchen space for cooking classes!

I saw they were holding a free veggie burger cooking class and jumped on the opportunity to check it out.

We learned the basics of veggie burger making. Buying store bought veggie burgers are convenient, but a lot of the times they contain many many ingredients and are sometimes very processed. They can get expensive, too. Lately I have been making my own and they taste great and are a lot cheaper. Plus, I know exactly what goes in each one!

It was so interesting to see the different combos of ingredients they used for each recipe.  The best part was trying them!

Here is one of the recipes we tried for a sweet potato and black bean burger.

This burger came out tasting amazing!


At home I experimented with making my own and this is what I came up with:

  • 1.5 cups of lentils, cooked
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup of breadcrumbs or processed raw oats (or a mixture of both)
  • 1/4 c of sunflower seeds processed in food processor
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp of whatever seasonings you desire

I just mixed all the ingredients together and BAM, I had a soft veggie burger “dough”.


The above photo was the first batch I made using a lentil and tomato mixture leftover from dinner the previous night.

The “recipe” above made enough to make about 10 patties, which I freeze individually for easy access when I pack my lunch.

I just heat about 1 tbsp of grapeseed oil in my cast iron skillet and cook each the patties until they are brown and crispy on each side. I find it takes about 10 minutes and flip them over a few times to make sure they get cooked.

In the past when I’ve made veggie burgers I found them to be a bit annoying and time consuming but with this fool-proof recipe it is pretty easy and now home made burgers are a staple in my diet!


My Trader Joe’s Essentials – Part II

Last year I gave you a list of my favorite Trader Joe’s products–Since there are still tons of stuff I get there on a weekly basis, I figured I’d do another post.

Golden Raisins


I love adding these to my salads and baked goods. For some reason they are just so much more plump and sweet than plain old raisins. They also make a perfect snack.

Quick Cooking Steel-Cut Oats


No explanation needed here- I love steel cut oats but hate taking the time in the morning to make them, so they are usually saved for the weekend. These, however take only 8 minutes, so I can make them anytime for breakfast.

California-Style Complete Protein Bread


This is a recent find for me–I love this bread and it makes amazing grilled cheeses with fig butter (see below!). Made with sprouted wheat berries, corn and oats this bread is only 90 calories per slice and has 5 grams of protein. Score.

Fig Butter


I randomly picked this up out of nowhere and it is amazing! Not only is it delicious on its own on toast, but tastes amazing on a grilled cheese sandwich (Thanks Andrea for the idea!)

Chocolate Chip Brownie & Oat Bars


These bars are another amazing find. They taste similar to Clif Z Bars, and are WAY cheaper! This one tastes like brownies. And I’m also a fan of the peanut butter bars.

Pesto Flatbread Pizza


One of my favorite quick dinners is this pesto flatbread pizza. I added the eggs on top for protein (best idea ever) and it gets super crispy in the oven and cooks in a short time. Huge fan.

Soy Chorizo


Normally I don’t like foods that are too spicy, but this vegetarian soy chorizo is so so good. It has heat, but the flavors are so good and the texture is great too. I love cooking it with sweet potatoes in a pan to have for breakfast with eggs.

Sprouted Organic Extra-Firm Tofu


This tofu is a staple of mine. It comes in a pack of two so when I don’t need all that tofu at once I can just use half a block. I eat with everything–salads, quinoa, etc. I love it. Here is my favorite way to prepare tofu.

Eggplant Cutlets


Found in the freezer section, these eggplant cutlets are perfect for quick meals (again, I love quick meals). I make eggplant parm with these…it feels like cheating.

Tofu Edamame Nuggets


Another one of my favorite quick foods from the freezer section are these tofu nuggets. They are reminiscent of chicken nuggets but are better for you, I’m assuming. Love them dipped in low sodium soy sauce along with rice and greens.

I’m sure there are more I’m missing. All the more reason to write another post in another 6 months! What are your current Trader Joe’s favorites?


Cooking and Baking Up a Storm

Sunday is usually my day for grocery shopping, cleaning, or relaxing. Sometimes spent studying for tests that I have the upcoming week!

I’ve been having the urge to bake and cook but during the week its so hard, so Sunday I usually make a big batch of something for the week.

I was eying a recipe for a roasted veg mac and cheese that I spotted on Pinterest a few weeks ago. Thankfully I remembered the ingredients when I went to Trader Joe’s on Sunday!

It came out looking so great! It was pretty easy to make too.


I also tried baking real bread for the first time ever. I’ve made a lot of quick breads, beer bread and Irish soda bread before, but have never tried a real crusty bread before. I had this recipe pinned for a YEAR, and finally got around to trying it. I tweaked it a bit–I used 2 cups of whole wheat bread flour and 1 cup of white flour vs. the 2 cups of bread flour and 1 cup of whole wheat flour. I just switched it because I found whole wheat bread flour in the bulk section of the Healthy Living Market. I also swapped maple syrup for molasses since I didn’t have any molasses on hand.

It seemed easy enough–just had to make time for it to rise (12 hours + 2 hours for a second rise). I may have cheated a little bit. I also didn’t want to be putting bread in the oven at 11pm. Plus, it didn’t look like my dough was rising all that much?


It ended up getting nice and crusty. But I realized I had the oven shelf too close to the bottom of the oven, and the bottom got a bit too dark.


It still tasted delicious, though! I will definitely be making it again. I’d really like to do more bread baking since its pretty easy when you follow the steps!


Quinoa and Tomato Cheese Casserole

It’s been ages since I’ve posted a recipe, but Sunday night I made a meal for the week, and it ended up being a delicious qunioa casserole worth sharing. I like making them because they last the week and reheat well for lunches. Quinoa is also great because its healthy and full of protein. I didn’t have any other vegetables on hand so I made it with a can of diced tomatoes and it turned out great! I also used havarti cheese, which we had a lot of since we used it on a pizza last weekend. The cheese was hard to shred since it was so soft, but I managed it! I was surprised how much I liked it. This recipe was inspired by this spinach quinoa casserole, but I made some changes and left out a bunch of ingredients that I felt it didn’t really need, that I didn’t have on hand.

Quinoa & Tomato Cheese Casserole


1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp ground pepper

1 tbsp olive oil

1 can diced tomatoes, no sodium

2.5 cups of vegetable broth

1.5 cups of quinoa

2 cups havarti cheese (or mozzarella), shredded

1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded


Preheat oven to 375*.

Heat onion, garlic, pepper and olive oil in medium sauce pan for about 5 minutes. Pour in can of diced tomatoes and cook until mixture is simmering. Pour in vegetable broth and bring to boil. Add in the quinoa and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed and the quinoa is cooked.

Mix in havarti cheese until melted, and then add quinoa to a 9×13 baking dish. Top with cheddar. Bake for 25 minutes.