I know many of you will heartily agree when I say that I am EXHAUSTED of cooking. I made the bread. I wrote the meal plans. I tried the new recipes. My enthusiasm wore off by May, and yet here we are – with one more doggone dinner to cook. Recently, I’ve had to rely on every trick I know to get dinner on the table.
But the number one, far and away winner of the best dinner hack ever is my instant pressure cooker.
I have never loved a kitchen appliance more. Even though I didn’t think I wanted a pressure cooker, my brilliant mother gave it to me for Christmas a couple years ago. It has been life-changing.
Here are the top five things I cook in my pressure cooker that make my life easier. I hope they make your life easier, too.
About once a week, I cook up a big package of chicken breasts or thighs to use in other recipes. My technique is simple. Season chicken with salt and pepper, maybe a little garlic powder or onion powder, or my favorite Pub Chicken seasoning from Aldi. Set pot to preheat and add a drizzle of olive oil. Put chicken in to brown. Add a cup of broth or water. I usually use a cup of water and a teaspoon of chicken base that I keep in the refrigerator. Set pressure cooker for 7-10 minutes depending on the size of pieces. Medium, thawed breasts need about 8 minutes in my experience. Now you have a pile of chicken to use for fast, easy meals like soup (more on that in a minute), casseroles and sandwiches.
My favorite recipes for cooked chicken:
Chicken, Green Bean and Rice Casserole
- 3 cups cooked, cubed chicken
- 2 packages low sodium long grain and wild rice mix, prepared as directed
- 1 8 oz block of cheddar, shredded
- 3 cans of green beans, drained
- 1 can cream of mushroom soup
- 1 cup mayo
Combine all ingredients and place in 9 x 13” casserole dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.
My pressure cooker makes beautiful hard-boiled eggs. And by beautiful, I mean no standing over the sink for 30 minutes picking off tiny shards of sharp shell. I mean easy, clean peeling. I keep them on hand for a fast breakfast or turn them into deviled eggs or egg salad. My favorite egg salad recipe is a bit of an upgrade from the one I learned to make when I was 12. It is definitely worth the extra effort.
Many of our family’s favorite dinners – meatloaf, Salisbury steak, pot roast – are perfectly complemented by creamy mashed potatoes. The problem I used to have with mashed potatoes was the timing. I can throw a pot roast in the oven, run an errand, pick up kids at practice, come home, and have dinner on the table in a few minutes. Making mashed potatoes meant a 40-minute wait and hangry kids. With the instant pot, I can make potatoes when I have time – even at 4 o’clock! The pot keeps them warm without getting gummy until dinner time. I might need to add a splash of milk and stir, but that it. Easy peasy. Here is my favorite recipe. (I usually replace the milk with heavy cream 😉 Shhh….)
Mac and Cheese
The thought of pasta in a pressure cooker kinda grossed me out at first. I thought that there is no way that could be good. I was wrong. This mac and cheese brings all the kids to my yard. Er, kitchen. And yeah, not now. But in the before times. Seriously, when my daughter invited her friends over, they would ask her if I was making THE mac and cheese. And if not, could I? THIS mac and cheese. Try it. You will not be disappointed. Now, we sometimes turn it into a main dish by putting barbecue pulled pork on top. Be sure to garnish with those crispy onions that come in a tin. That part is important.
Almost every week of the school year I make a pot of soup to have on hand for easy lunches. Vegetable, cauliflower, chicken and rice, broccoli cheese, sausage potato, chili. Usually, it goes into pre-heated thermoses a couple days a week, but it is a fast option for at-home lunches, too. This is my kids’ favorite that I threw together once based on what was in my pantry.
Chicken Tortilla Soup
- 1 large chicken breast, cooked and shredded or diced
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 can corn, drained
- 1 can chicken broth
- 1 can green chilies (optional, depending on how spicy you like it)
- 1 packed reduced sodium taco seasoning
- 1 block of cream cheese, cut into small squares
Place all ingredients in pressure cooker and set timer for 10 minutes. When finished, use a whisk to stir vigorously so that the cream cheese is incorporated. Optional garnishes: crushed tortilla chips, green onions, shredded cheese, sour cream, jalapeno slices, cilantro, avocado.
How are you getting dinners on the table these days? Please share your tips in the comments so I can try them, too!