Eat at Home Habit #5 Master time-saving cooking methods

We’re in the middle of a series on 7 Habits of Eating at Home with tips on each habit to help in establishing out own healthy habits. We’ve covered topics like planning meals around your calendar, quick and simple grocery shopping tips, stocking your freezer and the 15-minute meal. Today we delve into some tools and tips for mastering time-saving cooking methods.

Habit #5 – Master time-saving cooking methods

In Habit #1 we talked about consulting your calendar when making out your meal plan so that the amount of time and the time of day available for cooking matches up with the recipe.

Strategically choosing slow cooker recipes, pressure cooker meals, sheet pan dinners, and 15-minute meals depending on what your day or week is looking like will make a huge difference in your success with eating at home.

But in order to make all of these amazing options for saving time in the kitchen work, you need to learn how to best use these appliances and cooking methods and which one makes the most sense for the different mealtime scenarios that come up in your schedule.

It really helps to practice with these appliances and cooking methods at a time when you aren’t in a rush so that you can figure out the individual quirks or steps for each one without a lot of pressure or stress to get it right the first time.  Don’t give up if you have a failure or two.  It could be that you’re just learning how to use the appliance, and with a little perseverance, you’ll come to find that it’s one of your absolute favorite kitchen tools!

A good recipe will go a long way to making you successful – and I’d like to think that the recipes we have here on the site are good ones that will make cooking a delicious meal for your family easy and enjoyable!

This post contains affiliate links. Your clicks and purchases help sustain this site at no extra cost to yourself! 

Tips for Using the Slow Cooker

You can make a ridiculous amount of good food in the slow cooker. Prep time is fast and there’s little to no standing in the kitchen monitoring the food as it cooks. That’s a huge plus if you have a lot of other things to do besides keep an eye on the stove!

One of the biggest issues you may run into with slow cookers is that they tend to cook too hot.  Most often, this is because you’re using one that is too big.  If the food doesn’t fill the crock at least half way, chances are it will cook hotter than it needs to, resulting in dry and over-cooked food. Some slow cookers are better than others at cooking consistently, too.

Here are some of my favorite ways to use the slow cooker:

Tips for using the Instant Pot or any electric Pressure Cooker

The digital, electric variety of pressure cookers are fairly new.  I have the six quart 6-in-1 version and I use mine all the time. It’s such a handy kitchen tool! They’re really easy to use, but there is a bit of a learning curve if you’ve never used a pressure cooker before.   Read through your manual very well and keep it handy so you can refer to it as needed as you set things up the first few times. I recommend trying to making something simple in the Instant Pot for the first time, like rice.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned from using my pressure cookers this past year.

  • The most important thing to remember when using the Instant Pot or any electric pressure cooker is that you’ll need to add at least 1 1/2 cups of liquid to the pot to get it to come to pressure.  However, remember that the liquid doesn’t have to be water!  Things like broth, tomato sauce or juice, enchilada sauce and any other liquids work too. A good instant pot recipe will account for the need for liquid, but if you experiment with your own recipes, that’s something to keep in mind!
  • Also, remember that the amount of time you set the pot for is not the time that your dinner will be done.  You need to allow extra time for the pot to come to pressure before the cook time even starts. The amount of time needed for the pot to come to pressure and then the food to cook varies a lot. And it is usually still a lot faster than cooking on a stovetop or in the slow cooker so it’s a great option when you need to cut down cook time a bit.
  • Picking good recipes that are made for cooking in the instant pot is ideal for cooking a successful meal when you are starting out! Every week, we put instant pot as well as slow cooker instructions for many of our recipes in the Weekly Meal Plans. It’s been a hit with our members and I’ve enjoyed cooking these recipes as well!

Looking for a few recipes to try out? Here are a few of my favorites on the blog.

If you are considering buying a pressure cooker, but aren’t sure which to go for you can read my honest review of the two brands I bought in this post here.

Tips fop making fantastic Sheet Pan Dinners

A sheet pan isn’t exactly an appliance, but it is a really useful tool to have in the kitchen!  You can put nearly any type of meat and vegetable combination on a sheet pan and have a marvelous dinner with less time and mess than if you cook each item individually.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when making a sheet pan dinner.

  • The best thing is to use a very large sheet pan like this one. If you don’t have a large pan, you can use two regular sized sheet pans, but the large one is really nice and not expensive. If you have a bigger family, two large ones can really make it easier, too!
  • Timing is everything with sheet pan dinners.  Figure out which ingredient will need the longest cook time and place that in the oven first.  Then add the other ingredients later so they get the proper cook times as well.
  • Be sure to oil the pan or use parchment paper to keep clean up easy. After all, the whole point of saving time is to spend it with those around your table, not standing at the sink scrubbing off baked-on food!
  • These sheet pan dinner recipes are super popular at our house and with our readers! Try one out and see what you think! Once you see how easy they are, you’ll have inspiration for endless varieties of meals you can toss together on a sheet pan and get in the oven for easy family meals.
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3 Things That Work in the Kitchen This Week – Plus what I’ve been reading and watching

Happy Memorial Day! Sending thanks to all the men and women who have served our country in the Armed Forces.

1.  A bit of a cooking break

I’ve been trying to test at least five new recipes each week for the cookbook.  This week I didn’t meet my goal at all.  Maybe I just needed a little break from it, but for some reason the cooking – at least the recipe testing part – just didn’t happen this week.

2. Using and giving freezer meals

I had about 10 meals stashed away in the freezer and the next chapter of the cookbook I’m working on is a freezer meal chapter.  This may have been why I was having a hard time doing any new cooking.  This week I gave away a few of the meals from my freezer.  I also used a couple of them for our dinners.

These are so handy to have!  If you’d like to see a freezer cooking session in action, check out my recent Facebook Live video.

3.  Simplified Detox Salad

We love this salad!  It makes a ton and does take some chopping, but it is so good!  I decided to throw this together quickly to go with sandwiches one night for dinner.  I used just broccoli, cauliflower and dried cherries, plus the simple dressing ingredients.

It still made a very large salad, but it was a little quicker and just as delicious!

Reading and Watching

I finished reading At Home in the World by Tsh Oxenreider (affiliate link).

I really enjoyed this book.  It’s great if you like to travel or if you like reading about places in the world.  I loved that she didn’t sugar coat what traveling with kids is like, but she also made it seem doable and very worth it.

In the book she explores the connection between home and wanderlust.  We usually see these two things as opposites, but the relationship between them is more intricate and interesting than that.

We recently started watching The Durrells in Corfu on Amazon.  I’m really liking this show.  The scenery alone makes it worth the watch, but it will also make you want to book a trip to Greece!  The story lines are fun and light hearted.  The family isn’t without their issues, but it isn’t dark like so many shows can be.

What’s cooking in your kitchen and what have you been reading and watching?

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Eat at Home Habit #4 – Learn to make dinner in 15 minutes

We are in the middle of a series of 7 Habits of Eating at Home.

If you missed the first three weeks then you’ll definitely want to check those out too. Week 1 was on meal planning around your calendar. Week 2 was focused on quick and simple grocery shopping tips. And last week we talked about stocking your freezer to bring less chaos and more enjoyment to dinner time.

This week our topic is all about how to make a healthy and tasty dinner in just 15 minutes. At my house, this qualifies the chef for Superhero status and all of us can use a day like that every once in awhile! I’ll be on Facebook Live talking more about strategies for quick food prep and cooking and I’ll be making a 15-minute meal live so you can see how easy this is!

Habit #4 – 15 Minute Meals

Keeping several good recipes in your repertoire that can be made in just 15 minutes is one of the smartest things you can do.  Find a couple that your family loves and keep those ingredients handy so that you have something to fall back on. Even on the busiest, craziest nights, we can carve out 15 minutes to pull dinner together if we have a standby recipe or two to turn to and a pantry with basic meal builders ready for us!

If you are already a member, you know that Eat at Home Meal Plan members get a 15-minute meal each week in both the Traditional and Whole Foods plans to give healthy, quick options for that one night you don’t have any time to prepare in advance. There are really so many delicious, quick and easy meals to choose from that only take 15 minutes and I love having that choice on the menu every week!

Tools for the quickest cooking

In addition to those delicious 15-minute recipes, it’s a good idea to keep some tools on hand to make your prep and cooking time as easy and fast as possible. Stock your kitchen with these hard working tools to make cooking fast.

  1. Sharp knife –This is essential. So many meals require some chopping or cutting. You do not want to be fighting the food while trying to chop with a dull knife. Invest in a good, sharp knife and a knife sharpener. You will not regret this purchase.
  2. Garlic press – Fresh garlic makes a dish taste wonderful. Invest in a quality garlic press to make this step fast. Look for one that doesn’t require the cloves to be peeled. You also want an easy way to clean out the little holes. Pampered Chef makes a nice press, but there are other good brands too.
  3. Electric griddle – The ability to make many pancakes, sandwiches, or quesadillas at once makes this worth the space to store it. Fixing these foods one at a time in a skillet voids the meal of its quick quality. Unless you are only cooking for two people, invest in a large griddle.
  4. Large baking stone or cookie sheet – Useful for nachos, French bread pizzas, broiling sandwiches etc. I prefer baking stones because clean up is a quick scrape under hot water.
  5. Gas grill – Grilling can be quick, depending on the food you’re fixing. It’s an easy way to cook up lots of chicken for the freezer. Grilling also cuts down on cleanup.
  6. Microwave – I use the microwave for quickly thawing cooked meats. One or two minutes is all it takes to have cooked chicken or ground beef ready to add to a recipe.

Naturally quick-cooking foods & Meal Builders for your Pantry

It’s a great idea to keep your pantry stocked with key ingredients so you never have to worry about not having anything to build a meal on. This post talks about classic meal builders I always keep on hand in my pantry and it really helps!

There are also a few foods that are fast by nature.

These are excellent building blocks for quick meals at home, so it’s a good idea to keep some in your pantry for those days when your plan has to change unexpectedly and you don’t have time to run out for ingredients. Combine any of them with vegetables and maybe some meat and you’ve got a speedy meal. Bonus – most of them are inexpensive too.

  • Beans – Canned beans are high in protein and quick to fix! Alternately, you can cook them in the slow cooker or instant pot in advance and freeze them for easy use later.
  • Pasta – Angel hair pasta is especially quick, cooking in just 3-4 minutes. Ravioli and tortellini are also speedy and are more filling than plain pasta.
  • Couscous – 5 minutes and done. Hard to beat that!
  • Rice – My favorite is Jasmine, which cooks in about 15 minutes. Brown rice is healthier but takes longer to cook. An alternative is instant brown rice.
  • Eggs – High protein, inexpensive, and versatile.
  • Tortillas – Nearly anything can be wrapped in a tortilla and made better for the wrapping.

Pre-cooked and frozen meats

So here’s my biggest time-saving tip. Are you ready? My biggest ally in quick cooking is to have a variety of pre-cooked meats and even beans ready to go and stashed in the freezer. Doing this opens the door for a huge variety of meals that can be made in minutes instead of hours because the hardest part–cooking the proteins– is already done in advance!

  

You can precook meat in the instant pot (See this post for more info on cooking several kinds of meat for the freezer in the instant pot) or in the crockpot. I like to portion mine out before freezing so that I can easily grab a bag and it’s about the right size for a recipe for my family size without trying to break it apart or thawing too much at once.

15 Minute recipes to try

Ready to get in the kitchen and make a few 15-minute meals? Here are just a few of some of my family’s go-to recipes for when we need dinner on the table FAST!

There are 14 easy meals in this post that my family loves. You can get more ideas by browsing the 15-minute meal section of the blog, too!

Try Eat At Home Tonight

Want a simple, printable recipe for a 15-minute meal delivered to your inbox every week? Check out Eat at Home Tonight! It’s FREE to sign up and is a great way to get inspiration for the dinner table. Here’s just one of the delicious recipes that you’ll get to try if you sign up.

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3 Things that Work in the Kitchen – new dishwasher coming!

1. We bought a dishwasher!

After almost 11 months of washing dishes by hand, we’re getting a new dishwasher.  Last summer we figured out that the slow leak we couldn’t seem to fix or solve had ruined the cabinet next to the dishwasher.  That happened right before Jim had a bad bike accident, the upstairs air conditioning unit went out and we traveled to Paris.

We decided spending money on the dishwasher could wait.

It hasn’t been bad washing by hand.

But I’m glad to get a new one!  It will be a week or so before it gets installed.  And fingers crossed that it doesn’t leak!

2. Figuring out where to put the things being stored in the dishwasher “hole”

The spot where the dishwasher goes made a perfect storage place for water jugs, the Instant Pot and the bread machine.  I’ve got some decluttering to do in the dining room cabinets to find places for these things!

3. Check the time before trying a new recipe

On Sunday I decided to make one of the freezer meals I’d made on Facebook live last Wednesday.  I chose Grandma’s Spaghetti Sauce.  I thawed it out and put it in the pressure cooker, along with some meatballs.

I also decided to set up the bread machine with a recipe from the booklet that came with the machine – Parmesan Peppercorn French Bread.  Unfortunately I didn’t check how long it would take, so it wasn’t done when we were ready to eat.

We tried it after lunch and really liked it, but next time I’ll check the bake time and hopefully be able to serve the bread with the meal.

What’s working in your kitchen this week?

Eat at Home Habit #3 – Stock Your Freezer

We’re in the midst of a series on 7 Habits of Eating at Home. The first week we talked about working your meal plan around your calendar instead of the other way around. And last week we shared some quick and simple grocery shopping tips.

Today is all about how to stock your freezer, with links to our recent series and all kinds of recipes and ideas to simplify life. And when the dinner hour is simplified so that there’s less stress involved in getting dinner ready, then family time can really be enjoyed around the table!

Habit #3 – Stock Your Freezer

We talk a lot about stocking the freezer here on the blog because it’s such a great way to ensure you’ve got dinner covered, even if your day doesn’t go as planned.  It really puts my mind at ease to know I have options, and I can’t tell you how many times having a freezer meal or protein I can grab and go.


If you are brand new to the idea of freezer cooking, don’t let that stop you! It’s a great way to maximize your time and effort and it is so rewarding–and simple, too! This post covers all the basics and will get you started on the right track.  Last month we talked about

Last month we talked about cooking meats for your freezer using the Instant Pot. If you have a pressure cooker, using it to cook up batches of meat to freeze is a GREAT way to get a head start on dinnertime.  You can also prep and bulk cook meats in your slow cooker!

Here’s one of my favorite things, though. Every month as part of the Slow Cooker plan, Eat at Home Meal Plan members get recipes for 6 meals that can be assembled in an hour, then frozen to use in the slow cooker later. I absolutely love having these recipes and a plan made out for me. My freezer is almost always stocked with something now, and I love having options! The freezer meals have saved dinner more times than I can count.

If you are curious about what the freezer plans are like, I cooked through the May Slow Cooker Freezer plan on Facebook Live.  You can watch the video here and see what I made and what a freezer cooking day looks like.

This post about making 7 Slow Cooker meals in 1 hour  and this older one of 6 slow cooker recipes in an hour are always favorite resource of mine and of many of you on the blog. These recipes are delicious, and some of our family favorites so it’s no wonder these posts are so popular!

Ready to get started on your own freezer cooking adventure? Enjoy it and the peace of mind it brings when it comes to making dinner time easy!

Here are some other posts on freezer cooking that you may find helpful.

3 Things That Work in the Kitchen This Week – Unpacking, Cake and Cups that Run Over

1. The best cake ever!

My pictures don’t do this cake justice, but trust me – this carrot cake and the chocolate cake we had for graduation (which I didn’t take a single photo) are the best cakes I think I’ve ever eaten.  Especially the carrot, although my oldest daughter would argue that the chocolate was even better.

I met Lois Dailey of Dailey Delights at an event for Andy Andrews’ Unshakeable Entrepreneur program.  Since I decided not to cook anything for Isaac’s graduation lunch, I ordered a Chocolate Delight cake.  Then Lois found out that we were going to be celebrating Jim’s 20,000 days (like a birthday – he’s been alive for 20,000 days – see the book 20,000 Days and Counting by Robert D. Smith) and she sent one of her Carrot Cakes.

The cakes are shipped on dry ice and are frozen when they arrive.  I popped them into the freezer until the day before we were ready to serve them.  Easiest thing ever and oh my gosh! That carrot cake has lured me to the kitchen all week.  The cream cheese frosting is so smooth and creamy and perfect!

I wish I’d taken better photos, but I’m the worst food blogger lately! These were snapped with my phone and it was nearly dark.  I did shine a light on it, but the photo isn’t great. HOWEVER, the cake is amazing!  While I was grabbing the link to the Dailey Delight site just now I saw she has a Butter Pecan Cake and I’m wondering if I can justify ordering it and having it shipped to the beach during our vacation.  Maybe as an early Father’s Day gift?  That’s Dad’s favorite.

This isn’t sponsored in any way. I just loved these cakes and I think there’s one piece of carrot cake left. As soon as I finish writing this post I’m going to go eat it. In the middle of the day, by myself. Did I mention this is a GOOD cake?!

2.  Overflowing coffee

I think I’ve mentioned our Nespresso maker before.  I love this little thing! But it’s been acting crazy lately. Sometimes it makes very small cups of coffee with 1/3 less water than it should. And then the other day it really poured it on and overflowed the cup.

3. Helping to unpack a friend’s kitchen

One of my friends moved last weekend.  In fact, the moving day turned out to be the same day she had her third baby!  That little one has great timing 🙂  I offered to unpack and set up her kitchen for her, so on Sunday after church we drove to her place and joined with quite a few other people in setting up their new home.  It went really fast with so many people helping.  So much had already been done by the time we got there.

I know my friend will need to move some things around, but at least we made it so they could live in it when they got home from the hospital the next day.  We even stocked the fridge with a few essentials.

What’s working in your kitchen this week?

Eat at Home Habit #2 Quick and Simple Grocery Shopping Tips

We’ve been talking about 7 Habits of Eating at Home in  a brand new series for the last couple of weeks. Our goal is to make the habit of eating at home low stress and high success–without spending hours of time in the kitchen preparing or cooking food.  You can read the first habit about picking recipes that fit your schedule here. This week we’ll be focusing on some quick and simple grocery shopping tips.

I went on Facebook Live and talked about all of my favorite tips and tricks, and demoed one of our favorite 15-minute meals! If you didn’t catch that, you can view the replay here. 

Habit #2 – Keep grocery shopping quick and simple

Grocery shopping can be time-consuming and tedious sometimes. Without a plan, it’s easy to come home with much more than you intended (and go over budget) or forget essentials and hvae to make extra trips. Here are a few ideas to make grocery shopping faster:

1. Organize your list by aisle of the store

If you’re an Eat at Home Meal Plan member, this step is done for you and it’s color-coded too so you know which ingredients are for which recipe.  If you’re not a member, go through the recipes you’ve chosen to make during the week and add all the ingredients to the list in the categories you’d find them in the store.

My lists (and those we create for members) have these categories:

  • Produce
  • Canned/Dry
  • Dairy
  • Meat
  • Bread
  • Other

2. Keep a running list of things you run out of during the week

I’ve learned that the best place for me to keep this list is in my planner, but you may like keeping a piece of paper on the fridge instead.  You might also have a chalkboard or dry-erase board in the kitchen you could use.  However, you keep the list, get in the habit of adding items to it as you run low on them.

3. Shop with purpose

Once you hit the store, shop with purpose.  This means have your list in your hand, grab your cart and go.  Focus on the list and don’t get sidetracked by other items and aisles.  Move quickly through the store and check those items off your list!

4. Work from the back of the store to the front

I like to start at the back of the grocery and work my way to the front.  That makes a quick trip to the cash register when I’m finished (and less temptation to pick up one more thing) and it keeps the produce from getting crushed since it’s the last thing I add to the cart.

5. Try online ordering with store pickup

Many grocery stores now offer this, including Walmart.  I can’t sing the praises of this service enough!  It’s such a time saver. I put my Eat at Home grocery list in one tab and have the Walmart site open in another tab. Moving between the two to add the items to my cart only takes a few minutes to complete the order.

Schedule a pickup for when you’re already out doing errands.  It’s so convenient and easy! If you haven’t tried it before, you can get $10 off by signing up here.

6. Check out Amazon Pantry

The prices aren’t always comparable to in-store prices in every area, but sometimes you can snag a great deal on pantry staples and have them shipped right to your door! I haven’t tried it myself, but I have a friend who uses it regularly and it saves her time and money! You can order other household staples and fit up to 45 lbs in a box. Each month, there are featured items and if you buy five of those, you get free shipping too. She uses this to stock up on toiletry items, band-aids, and cleaning supplies as well as pantry basics. They have a nice variety of organic and gluten-free options as well. Keeping an eye out and buying things you need anyway can make Prime Pantry a great time-saving choice!

7 Habits of Eating at Home (without spending hours planning and cooking)

Today starts a new series on developing 7 habits of eating at home that make it both feasible and simple! Over the years I’ve learned a few things that really help when trying to build the habits of eating at home instead of grabbing takeout whenever I have a hectic day and I want to share those with you in this series.

So let’s start with the core basic–actually making a plan that works for you and not against you! We want to create habits that will benefit our family and budget with home cooked meals every night, but that take in account our busy schedules so we’re not spending hours of time planning out meals and then cooking them. We discussed this topic along with how to deal with picky eaters in your meal planning in this video along with lots of helpful tips and comments from viewers.

Your Calendar and Meal Planning

One of the things that often trips us up is the common advice to choose a day of the week for certain types of meals and then rotate recipes that fit each category.  Something like this:

  • M – Italian
  • T – Tacos
  • W – Sandwiches
  • Th -…

You get the idea.  This is okay advice if all of your days and evenings have the same routine that involves you being home in time to prep and cook dinner easily.  But my life doesn’t look like that and I bet yours doesn’t either!

We need a meal plan that takes into account our schedule so that we have time to make the meals we plan on. Instead of being frustrated because meal planning never works for us, if we learn to have a new perspective and create a plan that works with our schedule instead of against it, we are sure to feel great about our successes!

eating at home habits

Rethinking Eating at Home Habits

Instead of thinking about the type of foods when planning your menu, consider the cooking method and speed of the recipes you are looking at.  This will give you much a much better success rate because your plan will fit your day and create a lot less stress and work when it comes time to getting dinner on the table.

  • Slow cooker recipes are fantastic when you have a few minutes in the morning, but no time later in the day.
  • Instant Pot or pressure cooker recipes work great for hands-off cooking that can be started later in the day. I like loading my Instant Pot around 3 pm and letting it switch to “keep warm” after the cook time is up.  Dinner’s ready and waiting for us later.
  • 15 Minute meals are best on super busy days.  Having an arsenal of these types of recipes will save you from the drive-thru.

Habit #1 – Choose a recipe that fits your day and the time you have available to cook instead of making your day fit your recipe.

Read all the posts in the 7 Successful Habits for Eating at Home

  1. THIS POST:  Plan Meals around your calendar and lifestyle
  2. Simplify Grocery Shopping to save time and money
  3. Stock up your freezer with easy meals and shortcuts
  4. Plan 15-minute meals for busy days
  5. Master time-saving tools in the kitchen–before you are in a time crunch!
  6. Create intentional conversation and connection with your families at the dinner table + FREE PRINTABLE!
  7. Use up what you already have by shopping from your pantry and freezer when you plan your menu at least a few times a year!

3 Things that Work in the Kitchen This Week – (actually, one is a fail)

1. Chili Cheese Waffle Nachos

I’ve been doing a lot of recipe testing. In fact, that’s the bulk of the cooking going on lately.  One of the recipes I tested last week was Chili Cheese Waffle Nachos.  These start with a simple skillet chili that can be used several ways.  Needless to say, this one was a hit with the family!

2. Simple Graduation Menu

One of the ironic things about writing a cookbook is it requires so much cooking that some of the normal cooking I’d do takes a back seat.

Next Saturday our third child graduates from high school.  We’ve homeschooled the kids so it always feels like a huge accomplishment to get one to graduation.  A lot of work goes into their education over the years!

We’re celebrating with a simple lunch for family and I’ve decided to give myself the gift of not cooking a thing.  I’ve ordered a sandwich tray from Costco.  To that we’ll add cut fruit, veggies, potato salad from Costco and maybe some chips.  I also ordered a cake from a friend who has the company Dailey Delights.  She shipped a cake on dry ice and I put it in the freezer when it arrived.  All I need to do is thaw!

It does seem strange to not cook for the graduation lunch, but I’m so glad I don’t have to!

3. Cooking fail – Pork roast in the Instant Pot

Yesterday afternoon I wanted to test another recipe.  This one started by cooking a pork roast and I decided to use the Instant Pot.  I’ve done this many times before, always with great results.

I set the cook time for 60 minutes, which is more than is typically called for.  I wanted the roast to be very done so I could pull the meat apart.  When the cook time was up I let the pot switch to keep warm and came back several hours later to deal with the meat.

But it wasn’t cooked all the way!  It was actually still bloody.  And because I’d left it on “keep warm”, I didn’t feel like it would be save to eat.

I’m not sure what went wrong.  Maybe the pot didn’t come to pressure?  Maybe I need to replace the seal?  If you have any ideas, I’d love to know.

What’s working in your kitchen this week?  I hope you haven’t had any cooking fails!

Every recipe you need to throw a Kentucky Derby Party

It’s all about the Run for the Roses here in Kentucky these days! I learned this week that over 160,000 decked out gents and ladies with hats beyond your wildest imagination, show up for the big event.  And it’s not just the hats, horses and spectators that are part of the tradition, but some very specific Derby food dishes too. Between the Kentucky Oaks and the Derby itself, there are 127,000 mint juleps served at Churchill Downs! And don’t worry if you can’t make it to the Derby, there are plenty of parties going on all over the state. If you’ve never hosted a Kentucky Derby party, then maybe this is your year. Even if it’s just a special menu for the family and a few friends, I’ve got you covered today with a few favorites for your own Kentucky Derby Party. But know that once you try some of these Kentucky-inspired favorites, you may just want to serve them all year long!

The Southern Living Derby Day Party  is a guide to all things Derby party, along with a few fashion tips too!

Appetizers and Main Dishes

  • Sliders are always a great party option because they’re easy to hold, can feed a crowd and there are so many flavor options.  I love Chicken Cordon Bleu sliders, though they aren’t a traditional Derby food!
  • Kentucky Beer Cheese is pretty much exactly what its name implies and is another staple that you’ll hear about frequently here in the Commonwealth.
  • “Fried” Chicken is always a nice idea, especially when it’s a Chick-fil-a copycat chicken tender, and don’t forget your favorite dipping sauces too!

  • The Kentucky Hot Brown Bake is a new twist on one of the first sandwiches you’ll be introduced to here in the bluegrass. It doesn’t take but a few bites to see why the combination of turkey, bacon, tomato and cheesy goodness is such a popular request!
  • Country Ham & Biscuits are a classic and this recipe from myrecipes.com suggests offering mustard blends and flavored butter to make them even tastier.

  • And what’s a derby without a spectacular hat? This Derby Cheese Hat from myrecipes.com uses cheese rounds and is sure to be crowned the favorite hat of the entire Derby when served with an assortment of crackers and maybe even some special jams and jellies.

Side Dishes

  • Scooped and chilled Watermelon always seems to be a favorite for any meal, or snack for that matter, as the weather gets warmer. It’s just as refreshing as a glass of water, but has much more flavor! If you feel adventurous, kick it up a notch with a bit of chili powder!
  • My Layered Coleslaw uses coleslaw instead of lettuce and makes for a crispier version of the traditional seven-layer salad.
  • These Goat Cheese Biscuits were inspired by those served at Table Fifty-Two in Chicago and are such a delightful combination of herbs and goat cheese inside and buttery Parmesan topping.

Desserts

  • These Sweet Tea popsicles have all the refreshing flavor of an Arnold Palmer, but in a popsicle. Perfect for a warm race day!

  • You obviously can’t have a Derby party without a Hat shaped Cake, and with its fresh flowers and ribbon embellishments, you don’t even have to be an expert cake decorator.
  • To round out the dessert section how about some Red Velvet “Run for the Roses” cupcakes? This recipe was originally created for one of Kentucky’s other great loves, the UK Wildcats. Simply switch out the blue food coloring for red and voila, you have “Run for the Roses” cupcakes!
  • Individual pies make in mini pie pans or even hand pies are great for large gatherings when you don’t want to be too fussy about place settings and all that formality.

  • Did you know that the name “Derby Pie” is actually copyrighted? It’s true! When a friend gave me her Kentucky Nut Pie version I just had to try it. It was definitely a winner in our house and disappeared in no time!
  • There are lots of recipes for Bourbon balls and those are a big deal here in Kentucky. I’ve heard of several people who include a Kentucky Bourbon Trail tour while they are here for the derby. One of the favorite places for such treats in town is Old Kentucky Chocolates. It’s a good idea to include a few pre-made menu items sometimes when you’re throwing a party, so why not some of these!

Beverages

  • Mint Juleps are another Derby tradition, and if bourbon is your thing, Southern Living has this  Mint Julep Sweet Tea recipe. If, on the other hand, bourbon isn’t your thing then you can leave that out and enjoy a sweet mint tea.

  • Kids of all ages are sure to enjoy these Frozen Pink Lemonades Of course if pink lemonade isn’t their favorite flavor or color, then just replace it with their favorite tea, juice or soft drink.

In case you haven’t marked your calendar yet, post time for the Derby is scheduled for 6:34 pm, Eastern time. Be sure to fill your plate with goodies before that, because if you step out for 2 minutes you’ll likely miss the entire thing!\

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