Instant Pot recipes. Difficult Level: Sleepless parents + Newborn.
May 15, 2018 12:59 PM   Subscribe

In the home stretch of the third trimester, and trying to think ahead for meals. We need reinforcements. More below the fold.

First, I need to break my NYT Cooking Blog habit. (I'm looking at YOU, Melissa Clark). Hint: Dinner-in-an-instant is decidedly NOT instant. No bueno.

Second, we have an Instant Pot and I think it would be wise to put it to good use. I'm looking for simple recipes. I'm talking simple like:

Gather 5 ingredients or less.
Dump into pot.
Add dried spices.
Set timer.
Maaaybe cook rice on the stove to round it out.
Eat, then PTFO.
Clean later, which is nothing more than a cutting board, knife, and the InstaPot.

We've considered making trays of food, but that takes a few hours and we might be too sleep deprived to handle such nonsense.

It doesn't have to be precious or delicious, just edible.

We would love ideas... thank you : )
posted by onecircleaday to Food & Drink (34 answers total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
Pretty much any chicken breast + marinade - you can even use frozen chicken breasts if you like. You can also throw in chicken breasts + salsa.
posted by needlegrrl at 1:08 PM on May 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Nom Nom Paleo is a great source for IP recipes! Good luck :)
posted by hungrybruno at 1:14 PM on May 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

Chicken tagine: About 3 lbs chicken thighs (i use skinless), a chopped onion (I use red), 1 cup prunes, some cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, salt, 1 cup chicken broth. (If you don't have all those spices I think cumin is the most important). Pressure cook 13 minutes. Open the lid, put in 1.5 cups couscous (the size of those near East boxes), close lid and wait 5 minutes.

I made this when I had a newborn a few months ago :) Enjoy!
posted by beyond_pink at 1:17 PM on May 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

Not to threadsit, but the marinade is a really good idea. Maybe the thing to do is make some marinades now and freeze them for later use, rather than freeze entire trays of food? Freezer space is an issue but that would help a lot.

Any ideas for make-ahead marinades are welcome. Salsa idea is great.

Thank you, keep 'em coming!
posted by onecircleaday at 1:17 PM on May 15, 2018

Ah, I should have linked to two favorites! IP rice and beans from My Plant Based Family fits all your criteria. It is also cheap AF and super delicious. You will likely want taco-ish toppings for it. People in my various food-centric circles love IP mac and cheese but I've never tried it.
posted by hungrybruno at 1:19 PM on May 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

Black beans or chickpeas
Indian summer sauce
Coconut milk to make it less spicy, of desired
One frozen bag of mixed vegetables
Set to slow cook for 1 hour then press saute and stir a bit when ready to eat.

Bonus meal because my toddler will eat the mess out of this, so it has stood the test of time. It's great if you have a rice cooker to use to compliment the meal, or buy pre cooked microwavable rice, or just eat as is. I'm partial to korma for people new to Indian. Butter masala is a nice earthy tomato based option that newbies can manage also.
posted by crunchy potato at 1:20 PM on May 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Instant Pot Butter Chicken is truly delicious, also works well with frozen chicken. Pair with stovetop rice, or frozen naan bread heated in the oven. So easy! So good!
posted by Wavelet at 1:21 PM on May 15, 2018 [5 favorites]

5 ingredient white chicken chili: I literally just made this in a crockpot last night. The linked recipe also has a instant pot version and a "you already have some cooked shredded chicken laying around" version. I will say it's more soup-like than chili-like. But it's in my regular rotation because it's tasty and easy, and you could always reduce the broth and/or increase the chicken/beans to make it heartier.

Thai curries where all you do is buy a can of red/yellow/green curry paste and a can of coconut milk and simmer your meat/veggies/tofu/what have you are super simple.

Not an instant pot recipe, but there are lots of sheet pan recipes (maybe better for cooler months and not the middle of the summer) where you toss some chicken parts and potatoes and/or veggies in some spices and roast them all on the same baking sheet. Minimal prep aside from chopping potatoes/veg, and lining the baking sheet with foil and spraying with oil or nonstick spray makes for easy cleanup. There are lots of possible variations here - salmon with potatoes and asparagus and lemon pepper seasoning, chicken drumsticks and/or thighs with potatoes and greek seasoning (drizzle jarred tahini or yogurt sauce on top), cauliflower and chickpeas with indian spices.
posted by misskaz at 1:33 PM on May 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

If freezing marinades freeze the meat in the marinade/sauce. Throw in pressure cooker frozen & cook away. Works great with pretty much any sauce or marinade & chicken thighs. If really stuck for time those packets of rice or grains you nuke for 90seconds make a great side.
posted by wwax at 1:35 PM on May 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

YMMV but I cook rice right in there WITH all the other stuff (like, chicken, veg, stock, rice, spices, etc.)- comes out great (maaaaayybe a bit mushy).
posted by clseace at 1:40 PM on May 15, 2018

Rather than marinades (because the high heat blows out delicate flavors) I tend to cook meat in a very basic way - plenty of salt, one hacked-up onion (put it in first, keeps meat from touching the bottom anyway), scant half cup water and maybe a dash of soy sauce or liquid smoke, shake of dried red pepper flakes, done - and then sauce after cooking or even not until serving. This means you can just put a bunch of sauces in the pantry and get on with your life, and don't be afraid to use "simmer sauce" stuff too, they're often a little nicer than overly-sweet bottle sauces.

I routinely do this with half, 3/4, or a whole 4lb bag of frozen boneless skinless chicken thighs (way better flavor and texture than breast), a little less often with what my grocery store sells as pork "cushion meat", which is deboned shoulder, and they sell it in packages of like 8 pounds and roughly 8 pieces - I cook 3ish at a time, usually cut into thirds to cook faster, and cut up and freeze the rest for later.

In any case, this gives us 4-6 serving's worth of meat that can be reheated with veg on the side or steamer bag with rice from the rice cooker or a microwaved potato or sweet potato.

But, if you want to cook in sauce, I still love this Spicy Honey Garlic Chicken recipe.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:43 PM on May 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

Using the slow cooker function: Mississippi Pot Roast. So easy and mouth-wateringly delicious. If you've ever had an italian beef sandwich, it kinda tastes like that, but in pot-roast form.

Into the slow cooker:
3-5 lbs chuck roast (trim if you want)
1 packet ranch dressing mix
1 packet dry onion soup mix
8 oz sliced pepperoncini peppers (pickled), with some juice

Cook for 4 hours on low. Then add in:

5-6 potatoes, in large chunks
5-6 carrots, cut in thirds.

Cook another 3-4 hours until it's all done. Meat will be easily shreddable. This can probably also be done under pressure in the IP, but I don't know anything about how to convert times.
posted by hydra77 at 1:51 PM on May 15, 2018 [4 favorites]

It seems that many Moroccan families cook all their food in a pressure cooker. I have an analogue cookbook explaining it, but I haven't been able to find anything as simple online for you. I'll try to describe the idea as practically as I can, it saved my life when my second daughter was little. You can find tons of Moroccan recipes online, just not so many made as simple as normal everyday cooking there works.
Most Moroccan stew and tagine recipes put all the ingredients in the pot at the same time, and there is no browning. That means you have large chunks of vegetables, and the meats are cut into chunks that reflect their cooking time. So with half a carrot and quartered onions, you might have a whole chicken thigh and a 1/2 inch cube of lamb or beef. If you are making fish, the fish pieces are larger and the vegs are smaller. For stews to go with couscous, you add more moisture, like crushed tomatoes from a can, or some broth. For tagines, meant to be eaten with bread, you add the moisture needed to avoid burning, but not much more.
Lots of tagine recipes combine sweet and savory and acidic in fascinating ways. Like the well-known chicken with preserved lemon and olives. Stews are often very plain, and you add the spice in the form of harissa at the table rather than in the kitchen, which makes it very practical for families.
Couscous is a great starch. It's really easy to make from the pre-cooked boxes, and you can use the leftovers for tabouleh salad, or just heat up some couscous and leftover stew in a pot and you have food. A tagine and some good bread is a really easy dinner, cooked even faster than a stew. We had this type of food so much that the kids called for a break when they were in their teens, but now they keep on asking for it as a memory of relaxed and tasty family dinners.
posted by mumimor at 2:05 PM on May 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

Go to Costco. Get this simmer sauce, these frozen stir-fry vegetables, and these pieces of chicken. Dump the sauce and a lot of the vegetables in the Instant Pot and tell it to be a slow cooker. Wander away. About an hour later, come back and dump in some of the chicken. Wander away. Maybe make some rice if you have a rice cooker other than your Instant Pot. At some point remember you have food and eat it.

Clean up: your bowls, your Instant Pot, your ladle or whatever, your forks or whatever.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:10 PM on May 15, 2018

My friends made me a bunch of freeze ahead crock pot meals as a baby shower gift and it was amazing. I just dumped them in the instant pot on the slow cooker setting and the best thing was that it would stay warm as me or my husband and preschooler got around to eating it. We liked it so much, that we asked someone to come over and watch the baby while we prepped a dozen more before I went back to work. This page even has a printable grocery list:
posted by galvanized unicorn at 2:19 PM on May 15, 2018 [8 favorites]

BTW, we also ate really simple pasta dishes like spaghetti with garlic, oil and chili, or with tomato, bacon and onion. 20 minute food. Remember the cheese.
And we had rice with "something in a wok". Wok food is finished in less than ten minutes, the hard part is prepping. But your local store has everything pre-prepped, either frozen or fresh. You can turn that produce into something like a curry or something more soy sauce flavored. Look at recipes but downsize them to something more realistic.
When I was a student, one of my friends would make a dinner of a can of red sauce and a can of chickpeas. Sometimes with rice. It was delicious.
I'm the worst foodie, but when there is other more important stuff, shortcuts are fine.
posted by mumimor at 2:39 PM on May 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

This might be my kind of white trashy upbringing talking, but I think you're overthinking making marinades.

One of my family's most common easy meals growing up was chicken breasts soaked in Kraft Italian dressing.
posted by The demon that lives in the air at 2:49 PM on May 15, 2018 [5 favorites]

This doesn't fit under the umbrella of instapot food but works for tired parents with a newborn. My husband made Shepard pie and froze about a dozen of them. It's basically a homemade hot pocket with whatever filling works for your diet. He used pre-made pie crust and put beef, veggies, and salt/pepper in them. It worked well for postpartum stomach sensitivity.

Also, more on topic for the marinade question: I really like simmer sauces that they sell at more grocery stores. There's usually a good mix of cuisines. You can also buy dry seasoning packs from stores. Stews with canned ingredients are another way to give yourself a break.
posted by toomanycurls at 3:17 PM on May 15, 2018

Yeah, I was just going to say you don't need to make marinades. Italian dressing, barbecue sauce (my current favorite is the Trader Joe's Korean barbecue sauce), and salsa are all great for pressure-cooking chicken. Or you can buy some of those stir fry sauces in the "Asian" section of the supermarket. Or hell, one of the best pork shoulders I ever slow-cooked was just in ginger beer and Huy Fong Chili Garlic Sauce. I know lots of people like to add veggies in the steamer basket towards the end but I've never done that so I can't really advise. But it seems like that would be a good idea. Maybe pre-cut frozen veggie mixes?

If you DO want to make a marinade, I really like the one for this recipe. Very simple, especially if you have an immersion blender, and very flavorful.

As for rice, I like to cook up a batch of it every few days. It's the only "meal prep" type thing I do on a regular basis. I'll cook up a few cups of it with some water and a touch of Better Than Bouillon. With the small amount of BTB, it works either to be topped with something that has lots of sauce or as a side to something a bit drier. I find if I use calrose rice, it has a high enough moisture content to stay chewy and good for 4-5 days in the fridge. And then the last day, when it's starting to dry out a bit, you fry it up with whatever odds and ends are in your fridge and have fried rice for dinner, which takes less than 10 minutes.
posted by lunasol at 3:18 PM on May 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Spaghetti sauce: Onion, Italian sausage, canned crushed tomatoes, Italian seasoning. Pasta.

Chili: Onion, hamburg, canned crushed tomatoes, canned kidney beans, chili powder, cayenne. Rice

Chicken hot dish: Onion, olive oil, bone-in chicken thighs(bones add tons of flavor, but boneless if you *must*), white wine(or orange juice or red wine), mushrooms, broccoli(or peas or another veg you like).

Beef hot dish: Sliced onions, stew beef, white wine. Cook. Add mushrooms, cook until done. Add sour cream. Serve on noodles.
posted by theora55 at 3:24 PM on May 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm a bit reluctant to mention this under the eyes of the righteous MF chef panel, but somewhere in your grocery store, there are packages labeled soup starter, stew starter, or soup mix. They contain dehydrated veggies, dried herbs, spices, and seasonings. (Perhaps too much salt.)All they require is water and time and, depending on product, chicken breast, chicken thighs, beef cubes, etc.
posted by SemiSalt at 3:44 PM on May 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

Favorite meat plus 1/2 to 3/4 cup of favorite salad dressing, soup, broth or marinade
add potatoes on the bottom if desired
Pressure cook according to the prescribed meat time

If no potatoes, dump over rice, couscous or quinoa and serve

tons of flavor combinations!
posted by IpsoFacto at 4:29 PM on May 15, 2018

This is really basic for what you're asking for, but I have a 4 month old and hard boiled eggs are helping me keep up with the insane amount of protein needed for breastfeeding. In the instant pot:

- put as many eggs as you can fit on the little tray they give you
- enough water to cover the bottom of the pot, maybe a centimetre deep, not touching the eggs
- close the vent
- 5 minutes on manual high pressure, 5 minutes on "keep warm" letting the pressure come down naturally, then quick release and transfer the eggs immediately for 5+ minutes in ice water
- tada you're done, perfectly done eggs that are easy to peel, I keep 8-10 in the fridge at all times

Stew is great but in those early days you also need to plan for food that can be eaten one bite at a time with only one hand free and which you're not afraid to spill on the baby. Eggs, sliced cheese, olives, a piece of bread, peanut butter on crackers, pre-cut meat that you can easily grab a piece of. Get a water bottle with a built-in straw! Congrats!
posted by sadmadglad at 4:32 PM on May 15, 2018 [6 favorites]

When you're really behind and everything's in the freezer, pull out a few frozen chicken thighs and stick them on the rack in the Instant Pot. Dump in about 2 cups of water and whatever flavour enhancers you like: some BBQ sauce, soy sauce, whole or ground spices. Throw salt and pepper, plus whatever appropriate spices/herbs, on the chickensicles, then lock it down, let come to pressure, cook for 30 minutes, then natural release. Stick the thighs under the broiler for a few minutes so that they crisp up. Put the reserved cooking liquid in a fridge container while chicken is crisping and cook rice or another grain the next day, or even your next batch of this chicken.*

*You could cook a grain in the cooking liquid at the same time, but if you do the frozen meat approach a couple of times a week, the fridge time lets you scoop off any added fat, then use the stock as you please at your leisure. Any day you do frozen chicken, there's probably leftover grain or stock in the fridge. Win!
posted by maudlin at 4:47 PM on May 15, 2018

Simmer sauce, not summer, in case context was unclear above. As an aside, if the mother plans to nurse, I recommend limiting cruciferous veggies and spicy food. I had a great deal of trouble with my child getting fussy if I ate either even though there's no logical reason gas-inducing food can possibly end up in milk. Speaking of which, rinse the beans before cooking if you cook with beans.

Another easy meal is frozen turkey meatballs plus whatever sauce you like (I drizzle low sodium Worcestershire on mine), set to saute in the IP.
posted by crunchy potato at 5:20 PM on May 15, 2018

Oh we like this in the Instant Pot! We sometimes freeze the chunk of raw pork in the sauce and dump into the IP frozen. (FYI I use regular paprika and if I don't have fresh herbs, used dried. It's really just the paprika and salsa that are important.)
Then, don't judge, but we eat it with instant mashed potatoes instead of that fancy parmesan polenta.
posted by raspberrE at 6:33 PM on May 15, 2018

I am here to 2nd the Mississippi roast. The ingredients are appalling but it turns out great. I always tell people what's in it and they always freak out about how good it is nonetheless. It involves zero effort.
posted by Smearcase at 6:59 PM on May 15, 2018

Morrocan Eggplant Stew 10min at pressure.
Dhal Freezes excellently.
posted by kjs4 at 7:59 PM on May 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

One Pot Pasta recipes - note that just about any frozen steamable vegetable can be added to these for more nutrition, and if you want, cook everything else about half the full cooking time, vent and drop your veg in, and then reseal and finish. That'll keep the veg from turning to total mush.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:07 PM on May 15, 2018

Seconding Urvashi Pitre (of Butter Chicken fame)'s recipes. Here are some of her "dump and cook" as she calls it pressure cooker recipes, involving minimal prep work, falling within your guidelines (and she has another tag there too, for "5 ingredients or less"). Even many of the ones that might not fall under that category on the website--I forget at the moment if she tags them as that simple, but her Vindaloo and Tinga and various chicken soups among others--are nearly as simple as opening cans, dumping into the IP, and setting it--you usually chop an onion, some garlic, and some ginger, but that's it.

One note of potential warning: the very same thing that sets her pressure cooking recipes apart for the better IMO (before I found out about her blog I'd mostly given up on IP recipe blogs, found all the food too watery or bland, or with too many steps/additional gadgets to try to "fix" the watery blandness of default pressure cooking--I don't want to turn the broiler of my oven on or use the stove to thicken things after; avoiding that was the whole point!), that she relies on the liquid within solid ingredients like meats and vegetables to form the steam used to pressure cook so there isn't so much excess liquid afterward, can occasionally cause issues with scorching at the bottom (particularly if there's a lot of tomato in the dish), which will prevent the IP from coming to pressure. You can usually avoid that if you skim the comments on her recipes; if multiple people mention that problem you might want to avoid that one or at least add more oil or a bit more liquid, etc.

I also love that with most of her dishes that involve a protein cooking at high pressure for about 10 minutes, you can cook rice to go with the meal right in the IP at the same time using the pot in pot (PIP) method: equal parts rinsed and drained basmati rice and water, with a bit of ghee or cooking oil, put in a heatsafe container without a lid, perched on top of the main dish (you can use a trivet if you like). Genius!
posted by ifjuly at 8:21 PM on May 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

Check out the Dump and Push Start Facebook group for Instant Pot.
posted by Joleta at 8:54 PM on May 15, 2018

I make a fat batch of steel cut oats on Sunday nights, portion into single-serve take-to-work containers. A little ghee, Maple syrup and a handful of mixed nuts and I've got a filling, sustaining meal.

Combine in IP:
2c. steel cut oats
5c. water

close lid and seal vent.
Cook on high pressure 4 mins, let natural release for 20 mins.

Here's where I found it.
posted by mcbeth at 8:55 PM on May 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

The instant pot lets you stack dishes inside it (I use tiny metal cake pans, others use tiffins from Amazon) so you can cook your rice and meat/ potatoes and meat etc all at once. I cook beef with gravy and separate herbed potatoes at the same time, or salsa marinated chicken and Spanish rice at the same time, etc.

I like hearty noodles like macaroni or rigatoni with just enough water that there are still noodles poking through the surface, with a spoonful of garlic, spoonful of tomato paste, herbs and salt cooked on manual for half the time on the package. Costco has quinoa macaroni that does super well with this method. I often Brown brats or Italian sausage first, pressure cook them for 7-15 minutes depending on if they are thawed or not, remove sausages and deglaze the pan with water and add the above noodles/garlic/tomato ingredients and cook for 4 or less minutes (quinoa noodles only need 2) then serve with the sliced sausages. I call it “pizza noodles” my dairy allergic kids love it and the starch/fat/sauce combo gives me the mouthfeel I am looking for with no mushiness.

The best part of the instant pot is you can cook dried beans in an hour with no soaking, you can cook meats from frozen quickly if you forgot to defrost, and you can cook pot in pot style with multiple items. Once you’ve used it awhile you get a good feeling for combinations that use the same cooking times or variations on the meat-and-starch mixtures (I’ve been enjoying quinoa like crazy). It’s a great rice cooker if you’re making a more elaborate meat meal on the stove and want quick and easy sides.
posted by annathea at 6:04 AM on May 16, 2018

Roasted vegetables take time, but are easy. Chunk up potatoes, sweet potatoes brussels sprouts (frozen are ok), cauliflower, onions. I roast veg separately because they take different times. Douse with olive oil, hot sauce or seasoned salt, or salt & rosemary or cumin. Roast at 400, stir every 10 - 15 minutes, till done, at least 35 minutes. You can add kielbasa or other sausage, bacon. Again, cook separately; they wont take as long.

How do you like your eggs? Quiche - pre-made pie crust, canned asparagus, shredded swiss, eggs, milk. Scrambled eggs with salsa. Fried egg sandwich.

Friends will ask if you want help. Say yes and ask them to bring a casserole that will provide leftovers. Or give them your grocery list & credit card. For me, grocery shopping was a lot harder than cooking.
posted by theora55 at 10:14 AM on May 16, 2018

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