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!

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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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How to Cook Chicken for the Freezer in the Instant Pot Pressure Cooker

In the past several weeks we’ve enjoyed a series on how to cook meats and proteins for the freezer in the Instant Pot. We started with Turkey, followed by Beef and Beans. Last week we focused on Pork and this week we’ll wrap up our series with how to cook chicken for the freezer in the Instant Pot Pressure Cooker. Several of you have joined us for the facebook live posts as we’ve cooked each of these in the Instant Pot and talked about ways to serve each meat. Your comments and ideas have made this series even more fun to do together and hopefully, you have been inspired to prep meats and proteins for your own freezer. If you don’t have an instant pot yet, I can’t tell you how much I love mine! You can get one here.

You can find the tips from the rest of this series at the Cooking Meats and Proteins for the freezer in the Instant Pot page. And if you’re a visual learner, you can check out this quick video where we cook a whole chicken in the Instant Pot, step by step

And now, let’s cook some chicken in the Instant Pot

Making a whole chicken is easy.  Take it out of the packaging.  There may be some parts in the cavity – heart, liver etc.  These could be in a bag or loose.  Either way, remove them from the cavity of the chicken.

Place the chicken in the Instant Pot or pressure cooker.  Season with salt and pepper and add at least 2 cups of water to the pot.  Set the cook time for 25-30 minutes.

When the cook time is finished, do a quick pressure release and the chicken is ready to use.  I like to shred or chop the meat and store in freezer bags in the freezer to use for quick meals later.

Need some ideas for how to use up that delicious chicken? Here’s 44 that will get your mouth watering!

Shredded Chicken for the Freezer

  • Chili Chicken Egg Rolls are great anytime, but especially when you need a main course that can be held in your hand, like soccer practice, picnics, football season or fill-in-the-blank ball season. And don’t be intimidated by the rolling process, you’ll be a pro by the third one, and then you’ll be so glad you learned!
  • Chicken and Dumplings are easy, tasty and the ultimate in comfort foods!
  • For a quick little Caribbean inspired sandwich that leaves plenty of time to enjoy the outdoors in the evening, you can’t go wrong with these Jerk Chicken Sandwiches
  • Hawaiian BBQ Sandwiches are an easy twist on an old favorite.
  • Chicken Bacon Ranch Sandwiches are the best of chicken, bacon, ranch and slaw on a bun.
  • The cilantro and lime add a refreshing burst of flavor for these Cilantro Lime Chicken Sandwiches

Chopped Chicken for the Freezer

  • Quesadillas are always a nice option and these Chicken Florentine Quesadillas are a nice break from the usual flavors without going so exotic that you can’t find the ingredients included.
  • This Chicken Fiesta Skillet makes a tasty one-dish meal served over tortillas or corn bread with some tortilla chips to the side.
  • Quick White Chicken Chicken Chili goes from frozen chicken to steaming chili on the table in under 30 minutes. Win win!

  • Chipotle Chile Chicken Nachos are a 15-minute meal that you won’t want to turn your back on once you’ve set it on the table. It will disappear in a matter of minutes!
  • Love the idea of chicken casserole with a crumbly topping but can’t afford all the fat and calories in the usual recipe? Then this lightened version of  Chicken Casserole is the answer to your dilemma.
  • Cheesy Chicken Casserole is the epitome of two simple words. Comfort. Food!

  • This Peach Chutney Chicken Salad is not your usual chicken salad when you add peach chutney, curry powder, and croissants.
  • When you’re craving Chinese, but your clock says no and your arteries can’t afford the deep fried meat, try this Cheater Chinese Chicken
  • Once you make this quick Tomato Basil Chicken Soup, you’ll never want to go back to canned soup again. Ever!

  • Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup is not just for sick days. It’s also for busy days when you don’t want to use canned soup but really want some comfort food.
  • Chili Chicken Egg Rolls are great anytime, but especially when you need a main course that can be held in your hand, like soccer practice, picnics, football season or fill-in-the-blank ball season. And don’t be intimidated by the rolling process, you’ll be a pro by the third one, and then you’ll be so glad you learned!
  • Chicken Florentine Pizza makes for a nice twist on an all-time favorite. Using a prepared crust cuts down on prep time and you can even grill them if you’re feeling adventurous!

  • Garlic Chicken Pizza is the ultimate in flavorful cheesy yumminess!
  • Chicken Shepherd’s pie is the perfect use for cooked chicken and leftover veggies, or fresh veggies if you prefer.
  • Skillet meals are great for quick prep and less mess, and this Cajun Chicken Skillet adds a spicy cajun kick and pasta for a hearty one-dish meal.

  • This Skillet Chicken Curry is a tasty skillet meal with a delightful combination of curry and peach chutney.

As you can clearly see, there’s no shortage of ways to use cooked chicken from the freezer! The sky’s the limit on ways to feed an entire family quickly and inexpensively when you take a few minutes to prep your meats and freeze them ahead of time.

Which of the recipes from the Cooking Meats and Proteins for the Freezer in the Instant Pot have been your favorites? We would all love to hear your favorite recipes and ideas in the comments below. And thank you for joining us!

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How to cook Pork for the Freezer in the Instant Pot Pressure Cooker

By now I hope you’ve recovered from all the excitement of the Easter weekend. Leftovers have been enjoyed as creative new dishes. The house has been set back to rights and there were plenty of moments together to make you smile for days to come. I also hope the last few weeks have made you more familiar with your Instant Pot and the handy tool it can be in relieving dinnertime stress. You’ll find a page with links to the tips and recipes for several types of meat and proteins in the past several weeks and today it’s all about how to cook pork for the freezer in the Instant Pot pressure cooker.

How to Cook Pork Roast in a Pressure Cooker

Here’s a quick video on cooking a pork loin roast in the Instant Pot, along with lots of ideas for how to use your cooked pork when you pull it out of the freezer

The Instant Pot or other pressure cooker makes a great way to cook pork for the freezer.  I will say, it’s not going to be much faster than doing it in the oven, but it is more convenient.  I love that I can set up the Instant Pot right after bringing the meat home from the grocery and start it cooking.  I let it switch to keep warm and then come back on my own time table to shred the meat and put it in the freezer.

For a pork roast or pork loin, add 2-4 cups of water to the instant pot along with the roast.  Season the roast in any way you like.  Simple salt and pepper is the most versatile, but you might also like dried herbs, paprika, crushed red pepper or other seasonings.

Set the pot for a cook time of 55-60 minutes.  If the roast is frozen, add 5-10 minutes of cook time.  It will take longer for the pot to reach pressure when cooking from frozen so you’ll also need to factor that in.

Most of the recipes below are different ways to cook pork, but they make a great jumping off point for using pre-cooked pork you have on hand.  For instance, instead of making the taco recipes from scratch, use cooked and shredded pork, add barbecue sauce and serve in tacos topped with your choice of fixings. We love sauteed green peppers and onions on barbecue tacos!

A Few Classics

  • This Italian Herb Salted Pork Roast only takes a few minutes to prep and the results are fantastic!
  • When cumin is involved, dinner is pretty much guaranteed to be tasty.  This Cumin Pork Roast also calls for black beans so you get even more bang for your buck.
  • My Pulled Pork recipe starts with cooked pork, some tasty spices and the crock pot for a fuss-free dinner that’s sure to please a crowd.
  • Pulled Pork Stuffed Sweet Potatoes are a great way to use cooked pork for a quick and healthy dinner

Mexican Inspired Pork Dishes

A Collection or Pork Sandwiches

Some Tasty Pork Recipes from around the World

  • Slow Cooker BBQ Tacos will make you wonder why you’ve never tried a Korean BBQ taco.
  • Mediterranean Pork with Couscous is a comfort food dish that can be prepared in the Instant Pot but will taste more like it’s been cooking all day long.
  • Brazilian Feijoada is one of those recipes that takes a little more time, but it is so very worth it!
  • If it’s an Asian twist that you prefer on dinner, try this Thai Style Pork that pairs well served on a bed of Basmati rice

The more familiar you become with your Instant Pot, the more recipes you’ll find to tweak slightly and use some of the pork that you’ve cooked and frozen to cut down on dinnertime prep.

Let your imagination be your guide for these ideas, but I promise if you have the pork ready in the freezer, you’re just minutes away from having dinner on the table!

 

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How to Cook Beef for the Freezer in the Instant Pot Pressure Cooker

With the arrival of spring, our days include more outdoor activities than these past few months. It’s a wonderful shift, but if your family is anything like mine, it can make for some crazy evenings trying to get dinner on the table. For the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing how to cook different meats for the freezer in the  Instant Pot Pressure Cooker. Knowing how to cook meats quickly in the pressure cooker and being able to stockpile your cooked meats in your freezer will allow time to enjoy both a healthy meal and family time on these longer spring and summer days.

How to cook beef for the freezer in the Instant Pot Pressure Cooker

First up, let’s look at cooking beef in the Instant Pot Pressure Cooker. Here’s a quick video for you with tips for cooking beef in your pressure cooker.

Ideas for using frozen cooked beef

Beef and Noodles

  • BBQ beef for hot sandwiches or Korean beef Haystacks or Tacos.

  • Beef pot pie – Try adapting this Chicken Pot Pie by using beef broth and cream of mushroom or celery soup.  If you prefer, you can make your own white sauce instead of the soup, with this recipe for white sauce.

  • Beef tacos – add taco sauce to the beef to season it.

  • Beef Vegetable Soup

 

Tips for freezing cooked beef

  • You’ll want to have plenty of zip top freezer bags, freezer tape and a sharpie or two on hand. Even though you think you’ll remember what is in each freezer bag, it’s too easy to confuse bags once they’ve been frozen for a bit. Especially since cooked beef can be frozen for 3 to 4 months.
  • Go ahead and label them as shredded beef roast, along with the date you cooked the beef. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did later. If you have a specific recipe in mind for your beef, you’ll find some good ones listed in the next section, then include further prep instructions and sides that you may want to add.
  • Be sure to cool your cooked beef before sealing it in the zip top bags to prevent ice and freezer burn to set in.
  • If you are new to pressure cooking and the instant pot, check out my honest review of two brands I own, the Instant Pot vs. Cuisinart

Which recipe will you start with?

For those of you with an instant pot and the rest of us who now have one at the top of our wish list, it doesn’t take long to see how handy this little powerhouse kitchen appliance can be. So which of these beef recipes will you be fixing for dinner this week? Share with us in the comments and be sure to check back next week for another post on cooking a different meat for the freezer in your instant pot.

And if you don’t own an instant pot, you can use your slow cooker for this too.  Either way, it’s so nice to have the meat cooked and ready to go when you need it.

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How to Cook Turkey for the Freezer in the Instant Pot Pressure Cooker

Welcome back to our next post in the Cooking Meat for the Freezer in the Instant Pot Pressure Cooker! If you happened to miss last week’s post you can catch up by clicking on this link: How to Cook Beef for the Freezer in the Instant Pot Pressure Cooker.

This week we’ll be sharing some tips and recipes focusing on turkey. And just in case you didn’t know, turkey is great every month of the year, not just in November. One of the beautiful things about turkey is that you can easily use it in place of chicken in so many recipes. It allows for a slight change of pace and it’s really easy to cook up lots of it to freeze ahead and add to recipes in a flash. You will want to consider using a smaller turkey, or cutting it up before cooking because they are so much larger than chicken and typically will not fit in an instant pot whole.

How to Cook Turkey for the Freezer in the Instant Pot Pressure Cooker

The Instant Pot Pressure Cooker is a great way to cook a turkey breast.  Be warned though – a whole turkey won’t fit inside a pressure cooker, unless it’s very small.  You’ll want to use a turkey breast or boneless turkey roast instead.

Add at least 2 cups of water or more.  You can also add onions, celery, salt, pepper and other seasonings as you like.

Turkey cook times:

  • Boneless turkey roast: 15-20 minutes thawed or 30-35 minutes frozen
  • Turkey breast with bones: 25-30 minutes thawed or 35-40 minutes frozen

Here’s a quick video for you with tips for cooking a turkey breast in your pressure cooker.

Ideas for using frozen cooked turkey

Substitute the chicken in any of these for Turkey cooked in the instant pot.

Turkey Broccoli Picnic Pita Pockets

How to cook turkey for the freezer in the Instant Pot Pressure Cooker

Creamy Turkey Florentine Quesadillas

White Enchiladas

How to cook turkey for the freezer in the Instant Pot Pressure Cooker

15 Minute Skillet Turkey Curry

Turkey and Wild Rice Soup

How to cook turkey for the freezer in the Instant Pot Pressure Cooker

Easy Turkey and Tortellini  Kale Soup – substitute turkey for the chicken in this recipe.

Turkey Casserole

How to cook turkey for the freezer in the Instant Pot Pressure Cooker

Quick and Easy Chipotle Turkey Bowls

Mandarin Turkey and Rice Bake

How to cook turkey for the freezer in the Instant Pot Pressure Cooker

Easy Turkey Alfredo Pasta Bake

Get more ideas for recipes you can swap Chicken for Turkey in this post of 30 ways to use up leftover Thanksgiving Turkey.  And then there’s also this post 10 Recipes to Use Costco Rotisserie Chicken (or Leftover Turkey) and you’ll find even more ideas for using turkey in this post Ingredient Spotlight: How to Use Leftover Turkey

Tips for freezing cooked turkey

  • Zip top freezer bags, freezer tape and a sharpie or two are your best friends here. Since cooked turkey can be frozen for 3 to 4 months, you’ll want to label each bag and include the date it was cooked.
  • A good rule of thumb is about 3 cups of cooked turkey per bag. If you have a specific recipe in mind for your turkey, you’ll find some good ones listed in the next section, then include further prep instructions and sides that you may want to add.
  • Be sure to cool your cooked turkey before sealing it in the zip top bags to prevent ice build up and freezer burn.
  • If you are new to pressure cooking and the instant pot, check out my honest review of two brands I own, the Instant Pot vs. Cuisinart

What are you cooking in your Instant Pot?

If you own an instant pot, what meats have you already cooked in yours? And if it’s still on your wish list, where would you start? New appliances can be a bit intimidating, but hopefully, you’ll find enough inspiration here to tackle you Instant Pot and be an expert in no time. And for those of you still dreaming of your Instant Pot, you can use your slow cooker in the meantime. Whichever method you choose, having your meats already cooked and frozen sure does cut down the time and stress of fixing dinner.

We’ll have more meats, tips and recipes for you in the coming weeks, so be sure to check back.

 

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Instant Pot Chicken Fajitas (with a slow cooker option)

Slow Cooker Chicken Fajitas has been one of my most popular recipes, both on the site and in my kitchen.  These Instant Pot Chicken Fajitas are destined to be just as popular.

They couldn’t be easier to make.  The Instant Pot version starts with still frozen chicken, adds onions and bell peppers along with a can of Red Gold Petite Diced Tomatoes with Green Chilies.

The tomatoes provide not only the extra liquid needed to bring the pot to pressure, but also a fantastic flavor boost.  Canned tomatoes are one of the staples that I always keep on hand in the kitchen.  In fact, I have a whole drawer in the pantry dedicated to tomatoes.  And Red Gold is my favorite brand.

I admit that I’d never thought too much about the flavor difference of canned tomatoes until I visited Red Gold in Indiana and then did a taste test myself.  Red Gold actually tastes like tomatoes.  Really good, farm fresh tomatoes. In fact, Red Gold was recently named the best canned tomato by Epicurious.  The tomatoes are grown on family farms in the Midwest and the Red Gold company is family-owned.  Those things shine through in every aspect, including the flavor of the tomatoes.

We usually wrap the chicken fajita filling in soft taco shells, adding cheese, sour cream and other fixings.  But it also makes great nachos.  Or try serving it over rice.

Using the Instant Pot makes the whole process quick.  You can have the entire meal done in about 30 minutes and that includes putting the ingredients in the pot, allowing time for it to come to pressure and to cook.


Instant Pot Chicken Fajitas (with a slow cooker option)

Serves: 6-8 servings

Ingredients
  • 2 lbs. frozen, boneless chicken tenders
  • 3 Peppers (Green, Red, and Yellow), sliced
  • 1 Onion, sliced
  • 1 can Red Gold Petite Diced Tomatoes with Green Chilies
  • 1 Package of Taco Seasoning
  • Flour or corn tortillas
  • Toppings – sour cream, cheese, guacamole, etc.
Instructions
  1. Put frozen chicken tenders in pot.
  2. Add peppers and onions and pour tomatoes over the top.
  3. Sprinkle taco seasoning over everything.
  4. Seal the lid and set the cook time to 12 minutes. Do a quick pressure release.
  5. Serve in tortillas with toppings.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Red Gold, however all opions are my own.

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Instant Pot Beans for the Freezer

I’ve been making this recipe for years in the slow cooker.  It’s one of my favorites, because you get a lot of bang for your buck and for your time.  Using the Instant Pot makes it really easy too.  Not that the slow cooker is hard to use, but the Instant Pot (or any pressure cooker) makes it faster.

This recipe makes a lot and that’s a good thing!  Freeze the beans in 1-2 cup quantities, depending on your family size.  You can use them just like you would canned black beans.  A quick thaw int he microwave and they’re ready to be added to:

  • tacos
  • quesadillas
  • enchiladas
  • casseroles or soups
  • mash them to make “refried” beans

 

The kids love having these in the freezer for a quick snack or late meal.  Grab a tortilla, cheese and any other fixings you like and you have a healthy, quick meal.

Since I’ve made these a number of times, I’ve learned that you can substitute for the diced jalepeno.  I don’t always have a fresh pepper on hand, so I’ve used a can of diced green chilies or diced jalapeno instead.  Any of these options works fine.

For you visual learners, you can watch the facebook live post on cooking beans for the freezer in the instant pot or slow cooker.

Instant Pot Beans for the Freezer
Ingredients
  • 1 lb. dry pinto beans
  • 1 lb. dry black beans
  • 10 big cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 4 oz can diced green chilies or diced jalapeno
  • 1½ tsp. cumin
  • 2 Tbs. Kosher salt
  • 1 Tbs. black pepper
  • water - enough to cover the beans, but no higher than half way mark on pot
Instructions
  1. Sort and rinse beans. Place in the instant pot.
  2. Add remaining ingredients to the pot.
  3. Set manual cook time for 25-30 minutes, depending on how soft you like the beans.
  4. Do a natural pressure release.
  5. Mash or keep them whole.
  6. Can be frozen for later use.

 

Instant Pot Beans for the Freezer

 

 

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