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Spaghetti Squash in the Instant Pot

I love hard squash, but cooking them always required some planning since they take a good 45 minutes baking in the oven. The Instant Pot makes this job so quick and easy!

Spaghetti Squash cooked in the Instant Pot

1. Place rack in instant pot and add a cup of water.

2. Cut squash in half and remove seeds. I have heard of people skipping this step and just cooking it whole, but I would rather deal with the "squash guts" raw than cooked and even more slimy, so I remove them first. My chickens love them. :D

3. Place the halves in the Instant Pot. I am able to fit two small squash in my 6-quart pot! Close the lid and close the seal.

4. Press the "manual" button and cook at high pressure for 5 minutes, then release the pressure.

5. Scrape out the squash with a fork. If you prefer your squash to be softer, you can cook another minute but I like it to be more firm and not mushy.

I love to eat this with marinara sauce, or sauteed with butter and garlic. I also make the Loaded Spaghetti Squash Casserole from the Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook and it is amazing.

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Vegetable Soup in the Instant Pot

I recently did a month-long "pantry challenge" where I challenged myself to try to use as much as I could from the freezer and pantry, minimizing trips to the grocery store and then only for fresh produce as needed.

Following that rule, I made vegetable soup! It was so easy and we made grilled cheese sandwiches to go with it. By cooking in the Instant Pot, it tastes like it cooked all day but really it only took 45 minutes from start to finish.

If you don't already have an Instant Pot, you can use a regular slow cooker or just make it on the stove and let it simmer a while. But really, you should get an Instant Pot. ;)

Vegetable Soup in the Instant Pot

2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Onion, diced
2 cloves Garlic, minced
2 stalks Celery, diced
3 Carrots, sliced
2-3 cups of Vegetables (I used green beans and corn since I had them on hand, plus some shredded zucchini I found in the fridge. I add peas if I have them, and sometimes diced potatoes if I'm not worried about carbs)
2 cans Diced Tomatoes
2 cups Stock (I used chicken stock from the freezer, but would use water if I needed to make it vegetarian)
2 cans V-8 Juice
Herbs and Spices such as Oregano, Basil, Marjoram, Parsley, Thyme, Bay Leaf  (I added all of these, probably a tablespoon of the first 4 and a teaspoon of thyme, plus 1 bay leaf)
Salt & Pepper to taste

Push the Saute button on the Instant Pot, and saute the onion, garlic, celery and carrots in olive oil for a few minutes until the onions are tender.

Turn the IP off and add the rest of the ingredients. Give it a stir, place the lid, turn the valve to "sealed" and push the Soup button. Mine automatically set for 30 minutes and I thought that sounded good. Dinner is done!
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Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes - delicious and simple, but kind of a pain to make. How many times have I burned my fingers trying to remove hot potatoes from hot water? Then there's the variability of cooking time - you want them done but not TOO done, and then you don't want them to sit in that water and end up with pasty mashed potatoes. It can be a bit stressful.

No more of that! Using the Instant Pot makes it so easy. Cooking the potatoes in the instant pot with the milk makes it so simple, and there's nothing to drain! I hope to never boil potatoes for mashing again.

Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes

4lbs Potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
1/2 cup Milk (I used Buttermilk)
2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Pepper

Toss the peeled, quartered potatoes into the instant pot. Add milk, salt and pepper. Close the lid, turn the seal so it's closed, and push the Manual button and adjust the time down to 10 minutes. When it's done, release the pressure. Add butter to taste, and mash with a potato masher right in the pot. Done!

If you prefer to whip your potatoes, you can still keep this a one-pot dish and use your hand mixer right in the instant pot insert. :)
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Orange Pomegranate Juice

When pomegranates are back in season (i.e. affordable) we love to juice them! A citrus press like this is perfect for juicing pomegranates. They are delicious to eat at well, but it's a lot of work to get the individual seeds out. We'll eat a few when we get a batch, but most of them get juiced.

We also buy grocery bags full of oranges from a local store. They sell all of the less-pretty oranges much cheaper in bulk, and we don't care what they look like!

We discovered that mixing our fresh squeezed orange juice and pomegranate juice is delicious! We also discovered that it makes a great cocktail for the adults with a splash of vodka ;)

Just mix equal parts of pomegranate juice and orange juice. That's it!

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Chocolate Trifle

A potluck is the perfect excuse to make a rich dessert and know you won't end up eating the whole thing! I made this chocolate trifle for a party and it disappeared in no time. So delicious and fancy, and it took no time to make!

Chocolate Trifle

trifle bowl
You will need:

Brownies - you can make them from scratch, or use a boxed mix

1 quart of Heavy Whipping Cream (to make Whipped Cream and Chocolate Whipped Cream)

4 Tbsp Sugar, divided
2 tsp Vanilla, divided

Chocolate - either 2 Hershey bars, melted and cooled, or 4 Tbsp hot cocoa mix, or 3 Tbsp cocoa powder and more sugar. 

The big secret to this dessert is the bowl. I don't own a lot of fancy serving dishes, but a trifle bowl is worth keeping around, to me. It can make anything look special.


Make brownies and let them cool. 

For whipped cream: Pour about half of the cream, with 2 Tbsp Sugar and 1 tsp Vanilla into your mixing bowl with whisk attachment, and whip just until it you have stiff peaks. You don't want to overbeat the cream, or you'll end up with butter! Remove the whipped cream to a container and set aside.

For chocolate whipped cream: Pour the rest of the cream, 2 Tbsp of Sugar (double this if you're going to use unsweetened cocoa powder) and 1 tsp Vanilla into the mixing bowl and whisk again to make whipped cream. Once it's whipped, fold in the chocolate of your choice and mix well.

Assemble the trifle in layers - there's no wrong way to do this, just remember to use the sides of the bowl to show off the different layers, and save enough whipped cream for the top layer. 

I start with brownies in the bottom, then alternate plain and chocolate whipped cream around the sides. Then more brownies, then more chocolate whipped cream, and finally plain whipped cream on top. Garnish with chocolate bits if you like. I just used a veggie peeler on a Hershey bar. 

If you need to cover the bowl for travel, you'll want to be sure not to fill it up all the way to the top so you can cover it with foil without messing up your garnish. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve. Enjoy!

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Spinach Ricotta Bites

I found this recipe on Weelicious YEARS ago and I still make it regularly. It's one of my favorite breakfasts and snacks. My daughter will eat them too, which is a huge win. I get 24 minis but you can also make it in a regular muffin tin and have larger servings, just adjust cooking time accordingly.

Spinach Ricotta Bites

2 Tbsp Butter
1 Small Yellow Onion, chopped
1 Garlic Clove, minced
2 Large Eggs, Beaten
1 Cup Ricotta Cheese
1/2 Cup Mozzarella Cheese, shredded
1/2 Cup Parmesan Cheese, Grated
1 10 Oz Pkg Frozen Chopped Spinach, defrosted and drained, or you can cook fresh spinach in with the butter and onions and then drain it
1/4 Tsp Salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat and cook the onions for 4 minutes until tender.
3. Add the garlic and cook an additional minute then set aside to cool.
4. Whisk eggs in a bowl and stir in ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan cheeses.
5. Once combined, stir in spinach, salt and cooled onion and garlic mixture.
6. Pour the mixture into lightly greased mini muffin cups.
7. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the filling is set and golden on top.
8. Serve.
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Easy Shredded Chicken

How many times do you want to make a recipe and realize one of the ingredients is cooked chicken? I used to sigh and toss those recipes aside, as I knew I didn't have time to do double cooking - who wants to cook chicken and then cook a whole meal? I also hated dicing or shredding the hot chicken. I always burned my fingers doing that, or if I waited until it was cool I could dice it but shredding it was a total pain.

Enter my kitchenaid mixer. I'll never forget the day I realized I could use the paddle attachment to shred my chicken for me. What a life saver! I can throw the hot cooked chicken breasts right in and the mixer shreds them up easily. The key is to do quick bursts of the mixer, don't just turn it on full blast or it'll throw the chicken right out of the bowl. Put a few breasts in, pulse it until you like the level of shredding, then dump it into a large bowl to the side and do the next few breasts. Repeat until it's all shredded.

SO for a while after this realization, I would boil boneless skinless chicken and then shred it in my mixer. Then I would do large batches in my crock pot, which was great, but it took all day to cook them. Still better than boiling, but not fast.

THEN I got my Instant Pot. Hello! Now I don't even have to deal with boiling chicken anymore! I can cook 5 lbs of chicken at once - I just throw it in the instant pot with some water, set it to pressure cook, and walk away.

I actually keep cooked, shredded chicken in my freezer now so I can use it in recipes as needed. I even keep some seasoned with taco seasoning. So convenient!

Whichever method you use to cook your chicken is fine. I highly recommend the Instant Pot for cooking chicken because it's so fast and easy but if you don't have one, go ahead and use the crock pot if you have time, or boil it on the stove if you are in a hurry.

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