Success with the Instant Pot

After my last blog, you might be wondering why I didn’t throw the Instant Pot into an instant pit!  I have to admit that the pressure cooker function works like any other electric pressure cooker that I have owned.  And, thanks to the Instant Pot community of owners who have created recipes and shared them by blog or YouTube, I have found some fun pressure cooker gems.  So far, I have really enjoyed making two things in my 6 quart Pioneer Woman Model Instant Pot.

First, the comments about how well it cooks hard boiled eggs is all true.  It’s true that the eggs peel easier after pressure cooking.  After the pressure cooking method, quick release and cold soak, I have returned the eggs in the shell to the refrigerator for up to one week and they peel in a few seconds!  Not that you have to do this.  They can be cracked and peeled right away under cold water after soak in ice water and they peel the same.  You don’t need to use older eggs as is recommenced with the stove top method.  I have used the freshest eggs possible and they will peel in a few seconds without looking like they were run through a shredder.

I use both a rack with handles and a special egg rack with the eggs turned to the pointed side down.  Along with tilting the top away from my face and body, I use pot holders that cover my hands and wrists, when I do the quick release method.

Please be aware that the size of eggs and the elevation above sea level will make a difference in your recipe.  At my altitude, 8 minutes with quick release works great.  Then, I crack them from the rounded side.  Once you have figured all of this out, it’s successful, picture perfect hard boiled eggs for as long as you have your Instant Pot.!

Second, I came across a reference to “Two Ingredient” cheese cake.  Well, it doesn’t have eggs and it’s a bit different from a traditional cheese cake, but the results are still worth keeping the Instant Pot in my kitchen.

The original recipe is from the website, myheartbeets.com.  From this basic recipe, I have made several versions.

The first time I tried the recipe, I used a crust with almonds and Medjool dates.  That was my only change for that trial and I was hooked instantly.

The second time, I used a crust with hazel nuts, Medjool dates, powdered cacao nibs, and a pinch of salt.  I added pure vanilla to the filling and dusted the top with mild Ceylon cinnamon, powdered cardamom, powdered cacao nibs, and a few sprinkles of the nut crust.  When ready to serve, I put a couple pieces of dark chocolate hazel nut squares in it to make it look like it was from a restaurant!

We are currently enjoying my third version.  I used Pili nuts (I ordered them from nuts.com) and Medjool dates for the crust.  I added the pure vanilla extract to the filling and dusted the top with only the mild cinnamon and cardamom.  I do notice that the Pili nuts might have caused them to stick in my ramekin, or it might have been that I was a bit short on yogurt for that trial.  But the taste was good.

It’s all good, but my second time was my charm.  Here’s a picture of that one:

Two plus ingredient cheesecake

Two plus Ingredient Cheesecake.

PS  I typed a quick note to the Instant Pot company today.  Their computer replied with a ticket number right away.  Now I am waiting for the human reply.  I will keep you posted.  🙂

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Warning:  Molded Food in Instant Pot!

Don’t use the slow cook or keep warm function, without reading what happened to me.  I am new to the Instant Pot user community, but I am no stranger to owning multiple slow cookers for the past four decades.  Until the Instant Pot, I have never observed any mold on anything I made in a traditional stand alone slow cooker.

Molded Food in Instant Pot

Molded Food in Instant Pot

What happened?

First, let me assure you that I throughly read my manual before I tried the slow cooker function.  On page 8 I had reset the automatic keep warm feature by holding the Adjust key for 3 seconds.  I noted that the cooker was counting up, as it should be, when I turned the appliance off and removed the molded contents.

Second, on my “normal” stand-alone, not a multi cooker, slow cooker, I use the lowest, temperature setting.  At this setting, I have never had an issue with mold.  A few times, I have had scorching on the bottom of the crockery pot.  Never had mold until the Instant Pot.

Third, when I pushed the slow cook button on my model of Instant Pot, it selected “more,” but it allowed me to change it to “Less.”  I used the “Less” setting because I believed this was the same as on my other slow cookers.  It’s not.  It didn’t seem to me that the pot of chili I made cooked hot enough during the slow cook “Less” function.  There was no splatter from bubbling on the glass lid which I used.

Fourth, I used the Less function for more than eight hours, which should have been long enough.  Then, the Instant Pot did automatically switch to keep warm.

My manual leaflet indicates that Keep Warm can be as low as 145 F degrees and the slow cook Less mode can be as low as 180 F degrees.  My stand alone slow cookers that I have in my kitchen no longer have any accompanying product information, but I wonder what temperature was the lowest, slowest setting which I have been using year after year, without any problems.  My feeling is that it is a higher temperature.

Now, I allow the Instant Pot to switch to keep warm only after a pressure cook cycle, and for no more than 22 minutes.  Enough time for the pressure to dissipate without moving the steam release handle.

Despite this total loss of so many organic and expensive ingredients, I am not ready to give up and kick the Instant Pot to the curb.  However, I will never use it as a slow cooker, at least on “Less,” ever again.  I will be contacting the manufacturer of the Instant Pot and that of my old stand along cookers, and inquire about the cooking temperatures on the various settings.  Then, I will ask the county extension service to guide me as to the best and safest temperature for what I will be preparing in the Instant Pot.

Finally, my model is a six quart “Pioneer Woman” model.  It seems to be working fine as an electric pressure cooker.  Perhaps my individual model is defective as a slow cooker.  However, if it is working as it should be, then please be warned and be careful.

A Few of My Favorite Things—Outside the Box

Chill Chest

Not just for cold food.

Life in a small home in Florida has two problems.  Hot and humid conditions most of the year and storage problems all of the year.  I solved both problems by buying several Chill Chests.

My first such foldable cooler was called a “Flip Box.”  It was smaller and more of a square shape than the more shallow and rectangular Chill Chest of today.  I still have my original “Flip-Box.”   I use it to keep things cold in the oven called my car interior.  If I lived up North, I would be using it to keep hot foods hot in a freezing car.

But the manufactures unintended use that I put the Chill Chest to is that of a sturdy foldable storage box.  After buying storage boxes starting with the letter S, that break and have separate tops that break or become misplaced, it occurred to me that the Chill Chest would be a better financial investment.  I could use them many more ways than separate storage boxes and cooler chests.  The tops are attached, so I don’t end up with open storage.  Since they are strong, I can use them to solve several problems. One time I stacked them to form a temporary bird cage stand!

If I could improve this product, I would made them in many colors.  This way I could color code my storage.  I would change the name from Chill Chest to something more associated with a box.  I would make them all stackable, but include some models that are deeper, so that a half gallon of milk can stand upright.  I would lower the price. People associate foam with cheap easy to crumple hot and cold drink cups.  They probably don’t think these folding boxes are worth the price.  I don’t think these are exactly the same as drink cups.  They are much more durable.  I wouldn’t have my original Flip Box several years later, if it were flimsy.

So, if you are looking for a multipurpose storage box, consider the advantages of the Chill Chest, and think outside the box.

A Few of my Favorite Things-Small Item

small kitchen stocking stuffer

Best stocking stuffer for the home cook!

Small but powerful, this kitchen tool: can be hung to save drawer space, mixes and rests on the pot without falling in, scrapes without scratching, measures just the right amount of pancake batter for my 10 inch bird safe fry pan, doesn’t discolor from curry sauces, and after a hard day of work for me, washes up on the upper rack of my dishwasher!

If I ever lost it, I would be lost in the kitchen.  I have owned it so long, I don’t remember where I bought it.  Unfortunately, the manufacturer did not put their name on it.  If you see them for sale anywhere, please let me know.  Buy several.  They will make great stocking suffers for the home cooks in your life!

One final note on bird safe equipment, please tell everyone about the dangers of Teflon and some space heaters with birds.  Let’s all have a happy and safe holiday!

Few of my Favorite Things

Over the next few days, I will be describing some of my favorite kitchen essentials.  Since you might be looking for last minute gift ideas, I will start with my more recent treasure called The Instant Pot.  I have used both non-electric pressure cookers for decades and an old electric pressure cooker for about a decade.  The Instant Pot is a bit different.  What I liked about my old electric pressure cooker was that it automatically switched to keep warm after the time under pressure was finished.  This is the same for the Instant Pot, if you have not changed this factory default setting.  I did this by accident when trying to learn the Menu buttons.

While we are on the topic of the Instant Pot Menu, the buttons must work differently on different models.  My model will not allow me to select the pressure level when using the Manual setting.  At first, I thought I had pushed something out of sequence.  This is not the case.  After reviewing the small amount informational materials that came with my model, page 11 states that the Adjust key will not work with the Manual program.  This is counter-intuitive.  Page 10 has the Porridge setting as what I would term as the Manual setting.  It clearly allowed me to set both the time and the pressure level.

Instant Pot Porridge Setting

This model has the most flexibility on the Porridge Setting.

The booklet of instructions says that the Multigrain setting allows you to Adjust the pressure, but I have not been able to do it.  I wonder if the booklet is wrong, or if I am doing something wrong, or if my Instant Pot is just a little different in this way.

One other thing to watch out for was when I tried to cook brown rice using Multigrain setting and guidance from the fold out Cooking Time Tables sheet which showed a one to one ratio of rice to water, the rice was a bit undercooked.  I will have to work on this to find out the best settings and rice to water ratio.

Regardless of the unexpected steep learning curve of this appliance, I wouldn’t trade it for any other pressure cooker/multi-cooker on the market.  Why?  It has a stainless steel inner pot.  This is of primary importance to me.  My parrot, like all birds, could die from inhaling toxic fumes from Teflon and other coatings.  I gave away to families without birds, or put in the garage, all mystery coated kitchen appliances and cookware.  If you are surprised to find out about Teflon killing birds, you might be surprised that some mystery coatings on space heaters have killed birds too.  When my parrot was ill from the bad millet flour, the vet told me she has seen this sad story too often.  One other bird related tip before I go back to telling you about the ins and out of the Instant Pot.  I am no longer putting coffee grounds into my garden, because caffeine is toxic to birds.

Now switching the topic from my feathered friends to my kitchen gadget friends, another handy feature of the Instant Pot, is that my model came with a glass lid for use when setting it to slow cook.  The Instant Pot can steam foods too, so it is a multi-cooker.

Learning about using this appliance has caused me to watch many videos on-line.  One such video wondered why, when the pressure time had finished, that the screen read “L” and did a count up of the time that elapses since the pressure cycle ended.  I forget what his theory was to the significance of the “L”, but I like to think of it as “Leave it.”  When you dog picks up your favorite shoe, you command “Leave it.”  You hold your breath and hope that your dog’s training will cause him drop it before it becomes his favorite chew toy.  So, when you glance up and see:

The Instant Pot "L"

My faithful friend, the Instant Pot, waiting for further instructions.

think of this as your dog sitting for all these minutes waiting for your next command.  In all seriousness, it probably just mean Low Temperature cycle has been on for, in this instance, 19 minutes.  They probably didn’t have room for the W, and just put LO.  Or, maybe it’s L zero.  It could mean that it’s temperature is not quite just low temperature.  This mysteries abound with this sweet little kitchen helper.

If you solve any of these mysteries, please let me know!

Millet Mess, FDA, Food

After many phone calls, I spoke with someone in the FDA.  I found out the following:

1.)  Even though you see product sell by, expiration dates, etc. on almost all products, this is voluntary information provided by the company.  It should be a law, but it is not.

2.)  If there is no expiration date and the food is expired when a customer buys it, there is nothing that the FDA can do.

3.)  The power of the pocket book is the only way to maintain voluntary information from a company.  That is, if you don’t see an expiration date, do not buy it.  Buy products that have not only an expiration date, but several codes which might indicate source, packaging and other data necessary to track down potential sources of food contamination.

4.)  If you have a problem with a food, immediately contact the company and provide as much information as you have about their product, any health problems you or your pets experienced, etc.  Don’t throw away the food.  Don’t throw away the package.  You need to store it as any other food of that type, but keep it tightly wrapped.  After the company, or a medical doctor requests a sample of the product, then it’s OK to throw the food away.  You have your photos and all other documented communication.  Wrap the food tightly again, and wear a mask if you think you might inhale any spores or fumes while you dispose of it.

5.)  If you are tired of throwing out your romaine lettuce, you might want to contact your elected officials to write mandatory compliance laws to provide food history information on all products that are produced or sold in our country.  That would mean all food including food used by restaurants, hospitals, schools, etc.  Help the FDA do a better job of protecting us.

Bob’s Red Mill Millet

Haven’t had time to blog much lately.  My parrot needs antibiotic liquid each day.  No way to tell if his infection was caused by the spicy hot and bitter tasting millet flour that I used to make his bird cookies (which I also ate.)

If you have had any problems with any millet flour from any company, please contact that company immediately.  You will need to send them a sample.  If you have the manufacturing information on the side of the package, please email that information to them, but keep your package.  I have not thrown mine away.

Bob’s Red Mill considers myself, my mother, and my sick parrot as only one complaint.  They requested a sample from the batch in order to smell it, then, store it in the event anyone else complains.  They refused to put the sample under a microscope.  They stated to us that they are not allowed to taste the sample.  You, the unsuspecting public, are their tasters.

There is so much more I would like to say about this, but I don’t have the time.  The above is the essential information that you need, if you have any problem with any food for yourself or your pets.