Posted in Book Lovers Community

Instant Pot Hunter’s Minestrone


Several years ago Greg and I fell in love with Tyler Florence’s “Hunter’s Minestrone”. Since learning how to use my Instant Pot, I have been having fun adapting my favorite recipes for my new toy. This one was fun but a bit tricky to adapt because of the pasta in the original recipe and the overall volume of ingredients. We played with it until we found something that seemed to work for our Instant Pot.



3/4 pound loose sweet Italian pork sausage
Extra-virgin olive oil

8 fresh sage leaves
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 sprig fresh thyme
3 large cloves of garlic minced
2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
2 celery ribs, roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped

1 (28-ounce) can crushed plum tomatoes
1 bay leaf
2 quarts chicken stock
1/2 cup of pearl barley (not instant)

1 (15-ounce) can cannelloni beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 bunch fresh parsley leaves, finely minced

Coarsely ground black pepper

Note: We buy our Italian pork sausage in links. If you do the same, cut open the casing, remove the meat, and discard the casing. 


  1. Press SAUTE  on the Instant Pot. (If it is not set to high, adjust it.)
  2. Saute the sausage in olive oil until it is just starting to brown
  3. Stir in the sage leaves, rosemary, thyme and garlic.
  4. Stir in the carrots, celery, and onion.
  5. Allow the ingredients to get coated and warm.
  6. Press CANCEL.
  7. Add the tomatoes, bay leaf, chicken stock, and barley.
  8. Press MANUAL and set it to 20 minutes.
  9. After the cooking is done, use the NATURAL RELEASE for 10 minutes.
  10. After 10 minutes, press CANCEL.
  11. Use the QUICK RELEASE for the rest of the pressure release.
  12. Open the Instant Pot and stir in the cannelloni beans and parsley.
  13. Allow the beans a few minutes in the soup to warm up.
  14. Season with salt and pepper and serve.


Posted in Book Lovers Community

4 Cheese Spinach Ravioli

Yesterday my husband and I made the most amazing ravioli! We are Catholic and abstain from meat on Fridays. As foodies who love meat (and I hate fish) we are always on the prowl for great meatless recipes.


We have always wanted to make a really good flavored pasta. Past attempts were lackluster and forgettable. We really like Lidia Bastianich’s Family Table cookbook. In it we found one of her basic dough modifications to include spinach. Using a basic dough recipe very similar to this, we incorporated spinach which had been drained over night in the fridge. I can’t find her spinach recipe on the internet, and I don’t want to violate copyrights by posting it here. You can just google for good spinach dough recipes. Emeril has one on Food Network which is similar to Lidia’s, just slightly larger.

While I made the dough, Greg made this Giada four cheese filling. We loved the base but wanted it to have more flavor so he cut in a little fresh rosemary and thyme.


While I rolled out the pasta and made the ravioli’s Greg made this Emeril pesto cream sauce. Obviously we didn’t use the Essence.


The Emeril recipe calls for pesto. Many years ago we discovered this one from Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa. For some reason, this recipe never fails to be better than anything else we choose. We make it in the height of the harvest season in huge batches and freeze it for use all year. We do play with the recipe a little bit each time we make it to adjust for the seasonal changes in flavor. (Some seasons the garlic is more sharp than others. Sometimes the basil is sweeter or sharper.) The recipe can be found in the Back To Basics cookbook (one of my two favorites of hers – the other is Foolproof).

That’s it! Using basic pasta techniques we married these four recipes into an incredible dish! Boun Appetito!

Posted in Book Lovers Community

Hawaiian Style Instant Pot Pork Shoulder

This is a play on a traditional “Hawaiian Kalua Pig” recipe. Essentially we are taking a tough and economical cut of pork, rubbing good flavor into it, and then letting the pressure do its magic. This pork shoulder will fall into gorgeous pieces that can be dressed with the sauce included in this recipe (and served over mash potatoes) or your favorite bbq sauce and served on rolls/buns.

3 1/2 lb boneless pork shoulder
5 slices of bacon, chopped into 1/2″ squares
5 peeled cloves of garlic

1 T Brown Sugar
2 tsp of a Hawaiian style or smoky salt (just use sea salt if that is all you have on hand)
1/2 tsp Coriander (ground)
1/2 tsp Ginger (powdered)
1/4 tsp chili powder

3″ slice of ginger, chopped finely
1 Medium Onion, chopped
1 can of crushed pineapple (juice and fruit)
3/4 c water

1. Cut the garlic cloves into slices (about 2-3 slices per clove).
2. Cut garlic slice sized slits in the pork.
3. Insert garlic cloves into the slits.
4. Mix the rub together.
5. Coat the pork with the rub.
6. Press SAUTE  on the Instant Pot. (If it is not set to high, adjust it.)
7. Saute the bacon until it is darkened but still chewy.
8. Press CANCEL.
9. Place the pork shoulder on top of the bacon.
10. Pour all of the sauce ingredients over the pork.
11. Close and secure the lid.
12. Press MANUAL. (If it does not default to high, adjust it.)
13. Use the + button to set your time to 90 minutes.
14. Press CANCEL.
15. Use the NATURAL RELEASE function. It will take about 15-20 minutes.
16. Remove the pork and shred with two forks.
17. Serve over mashed potatoes with the sauce in the pot or however else you like your pulled pork.


In this photo, I garnished mine with a mango salsa similar to this.


Posted in Book Lovers Community

Baked Potato Instant Pot Soup

1 lb bacon, diced

3 stalks of celery, sliced
1 large onion, small dice
1 clove of garlic, minced

5 lbs potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 T season salt (I use Lawry’s)
1 tsp black pepper
4 c chicken or vegetable stock

1 cup heavy cream
½ c whole milk

Garnish: sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, diced green onion, bacon crumbles, croutons

  1. Chop bacon into small bits
  2. Fry the bacon in the Instant Pot on “SAUTE” on “HIGH
  3. Add onion, garlic, and celery to fried bacon and bacon grease, saute for 2-3 minutes
  5. Add season salt and black pepper, stir to combine
  6. Add potatoes and stock to instant pot, stirring to coat
  7. Secure lid and set to MANUAL for 5 minutes.
  8. When the Instant Pot is done cooking, press CANCEL.
  9. Use the QUICK RELEASE.
  10. When the release is complete, open the lid and use a potato masher or fork to break the potatoes up. 
  11. Stir in cream and milk. Feel free to add more of either to taste. 

    OPTIONAL: at this point I use an immersion blender to puree my soup into a velvety texture. 

  12. Serve with the garnishes.


Posted in Book Lovers Community

Instant Pot Risotto


As a foodie, I know that there are certain dishes which are worth the fussing. Risotto is certainly one of them. Made very slowly with lots of attention, it is one of my favorite dishes to cook and serve. Always impressive, it seems to reflect the labor of love that went into making it special. When I heard that you could make risotto in the Instant Pot, I was skeptical to say the least.

Being so new to the Instant Pot world, I am specifically looking for recipes that will teach me about the nuances of pressure cooking technique so that I can convert my favorite recipes into pressure cooking recipes. Some recipes are more easily adapted than others. Some dishes can be adapted but do loose a little something. For weekday meals, I am ok with that. Risotto is one of those recipes. This is not what I would call “company risotto” but “Busy Mom Weeknight Risotto.” Understanding that, I am impressed with how this worked out.


I studied several recipes online to get inspiration on how I could convert my favorite Mark Bittman: How To Cook Everything risotto milanese recipe to the Instant Pot. Like it suggests in his cookbook, I have added some of my favorite finishing touches. My instructions are based on my version of the Instant Pot

(Just in case you are wondering, that is Pistachio Pesto Butter on the steak. It is our variation of Aaron McCargo’s recipe.)

How To Cook Everything Inspired Instant Pot Risotto

Primary Ingredients:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Generous Pinch of salt
2 shallots, chopped finely (you can substitute a medium onion)
2  cups Italian Arborio rice (I use Trader Joe’s)
Pinch of saffron (adjust this to taste)
1/2 cup dry Italian white wine
4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade

Finishing Ingredients
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup of peas
3 T chopped fresh basil

More parmesan cheese as garnish


  1. Mise En Place (put everything in place): Risotto on the stove and in the Instant Pot requires a well prepared space. Don’t start cooking until you have everything prepped.

  2. Press “Saute” on your Instant Pot. Use the Adjust button to set it to “medium” if necessary.

  3. Add 4 tablespoons of the butter to the warming pot and let it melt.

  4. Add the shallots and sprinkle the salt. When the butter is mostly melted, add your shallots and the salt and cook until translucent (about 3 minutes).

  5. Add the rice. When the onions are glistening, add the rice and stir it around for about 2-3 minutes until beautifully coated. (In this step we are toasting or waking up the rice so that it can correctly absorb the cooking liquid. We want it coated but crunchy.)

  6. Add the saffron and the wine to the pot. Stir to incorporate and then let it cook for 1-2 minutes until the rice has absorbed a fair amount of the wine.

  7. Press cancel on the Instant Pot.

  8. Add the stock. Pour all of the stock into the pot, close and secure the lid. Press MANUAL and adjust the time to 6 minutes. (If your Instant Pot doesn’t default to HIGH pressure, adjust it to high.) It will likely take about 10 minutes to come up to pressure. Then it will cook for 6 minutes.

  9. Quick Release. When your Instant Pot beeps that it is done cooking, turn the release valve to VENT (“Quick Release”). Remember, steam will come pouring out of the valve, so keep your hands clear. It will take 3-5 minutes to vent the steam and pressure. When it is done, open the lid.

  10. Finish the Risotto. When you remove your lid, there is likely to be a puddle of cooking liquid on top of your rice. Stir that in and then assess whether or not it is too moist or too dry for your taste. If it is too moist, set your Instant Pot to SAUTE for another minute or two, stirring the whole time. If it is too dry, stir in another ¼ c of chicken stock or water, repeating until you get the texture you desire. Keep in mind that adding the finishing butter and cheese will also help it set up, so don’t over cook. Press CANCEL on the Instant Pot.
  11. Add the finishes. When the rice is at the texture you desire, stir in your finishing ingredients. In this recipe that means stirring in the butter, cheese, peas, and basil.

  12. Plate your risotto. Garnish with parmesan if desired.


Posted in Book Lovers Community

Chicken Tikka Masala


I am brand new to the Instant Pot family! A friend blessed us with this one during the Black Friday sales and we have really enjoyed playing with it. We are foodies and so many of the things that other people like to make in the Instant Pot we prefer to make on the stove top where we can control the process a little more. However, the Instant Pot has opened up a whole new world of pressure cooking to us that is very exciting.

Something that we do not usually make because it takes too long in the slow cooker is Chicken Tikka Masala. We love a good curry, however, and so this was a dish that we had to try. After reading a number of recipes on the internet, we combined them with what we know about flavor and developed this recipe to our taste. About one hour prep and cook time total, it wasn’t a fast dinner but it certainly was an easy and tasty one that we would not have otherwise made.

2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp Garam Marsala
2 tsp ground coriander
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes (with juice)
1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast
½ cup chicken broth
1 cup canned coconut milk
Juice of 1 lemon

Crushed pineapple
Coconut flakes
Cashew Bits
Chopped fresh basil

-Serve over rice-

We made our jasmine rice according to the directions in the Instant Pot recipe book before starting this recipe. 

Pressure cooked the chicken in sauce:
1. Select saute on your Instant Pot and turn to high heat.
2. Once pot is hot add olive oil, ginger, onion, and garlic.
3. Cook stirring until onion is translucent (about 2-3 minutes)
4. Select cancel; add all of the spices to the onion mixture scraping the bottom to form a paste.
5. Stir in tomatoes
6. Place chicken on top.
7. Pour chicken broth on top.
8. Secure the lid.
9. Select manual and cook on high pressure for 7 minutes. *Keep in mind that it will take several minutes for the Instant Pot to come up to pressure. Plan for about 15 minutes.

Once cooking is complete:
1. Use a quick release.
2. Remove the lid, remove the chicken and chop the chicken.
3. Return chicken chunks to the Instant Pot.
4. Select saute and simmer for another 4-5 minutes.
5. Stir in coconut milk and lemon juice.

When the sauce has thickened, serve over a bowl of rice and add toppings.


Posted in Book Lovers Community

Apple Recipes

In this article, I wrote about why we can apples. I have had some friends ask me which recipes we use and how we do it. I am a self-taught canner. I am not an expert. I am just a modern mom who is trying to connect with old-fashioned good sense. That said, I will gladly share what we do in the hopes that it will help others.


First, I consider the Ball Blue Book as the gold standard in canning safety. Over time, we have learned where we could trust other recipes. For newbies, however, I want to stress the importance of getting and working your way through the Ball Blue Book.

Second, we have a glass top stove. In traditional canning, this is a big no-no. There are some well founded concerns about the unevenness of heating on glass stoves and this can cause a bad seal in your canned goods. To be safe, we use a propane burner in the garage or on our patio, with our canning kettle.

Third, having the right materials really is a big deal. If you plan to can acidic things like tomatoes, you have to have plastic tools like these. You just do. Something about the acidic reaction to the metal… I don’t know specifically what the reaction is, I am not a food chemistry guru, but I trust the people who know these things.

Now, the recipes and our technique:


Applesauce is one of the easiest things to can, except for the hours and hours of labor involved in getting to the canning stage. Using this recipe as our guide, we understood that applesauce is very simple: somewhere in the process you need to remove cores and skins, you need to season, and you may need to add honey or sugar. If you get your blend of apples right, you may not need any sweetener at all. Which order you do things in is entirely dependent on the tools you have. For purposes of this article, I am going to focus on the most inexpensive tools that beginners may be more apt to have on hand already.

  1. After picking my apples in a ratio of about 50% Cortland and 50% a blend of sweeter apples, I used my fun tool to core, peel and slice them. After that, all I had to do was chop them into smaller pieces so that they would break down faster in my pot.
  2. I added about an inch of water to my dutch oven and filled it with apples.  About 25  apples fit in the pot I use.  I didn’t worry about waiting for all of them to be cored and peeled before starting the heat. I got a batch going and kept adding to it.

  3. I brought everything to a boil, then reduced the heat to a simmer to let the apples break down for about an hour.

  4. After an hour, all I needed to help the apples into a mashed state was my potato masher.

  5. After the apples were broken down to my preferred texture, I put them through a strainer to strain off the excess water. (Save the cooking water. There are other uses for it.) This step is time consuming and not absolutely necessary. I think it is worth it.

  6. Because I want to can in big batches, but my apples cannot get cold while they wait for the canning bath, I transferred this batch to my Nesco which was set to about 150 or 200 degrees to hold the apples. If you don’t have a Nesco, a crock pot will work on “warm,” as will a pot on the back of your stove. The apples don’t have to be kept at a certain temperature, but they do have to be kept warm to prevent any bacterial growth.

  7. In the Nesco, I stirred in a couple of tablespoons of honey and a heaping tablespoon of cinnamon.

  8. I repeated the above process for as many batches as my Nesco could hold (it holds three, plus I can another batch from the stove).

  9. To process, I followed the canning instructions in this recipe exactly.

Now the discouraging reality: all of that work – 4 batches of about 25 apples each – rendered a mere 12 quarts of applesauce. Tiny Jars.



Doubling this recipe, I learned that apple butter is best when it is cooked very slowly over low heat all day long.

  1. After picking my 24 apples in a ratio of about 50% Cortland and 50% a blend of sweeter apples, I used my fun tool to core, peel and slice them. After that, all I had to do was chop them into smaller pieces so that they would break down faster in my pot.

  2. In my crockpot, I combined my apples with 1 cup of water, ½ cup of brown sugar, ½ cup of local honey and 2 heaping tablespoons of cinnamon (I omitted the nutmeg because I don’t like it).

  3. I set my crockpot to warm and let it work for at least 8 hours.

  4. After about 8 hours, I used an immersion blender to puree the apples. If you do not have an immersion blender, a regular blender or baby food mill will also work.

  5. Depending on how much time I have, how sweet I want the apple butter to be, and how moist the apple butter is, I may take it from this step straight to canning, or I might let it work a little longer in the crock pot. Really, it is all about preference here.  
  6. To process, I followed the canning instructions in this recipe exactly.