Friday, May 25, 2018

My Favorite Instant Pot Recipes

Look - a post that isn't about Paul or maternity leave! I guess it's sort of about maternity leave as I'm talking about a gadget that has made meal prep during maternity leave easier - my Instant Pot.

For those who aren't familiar with the Instant Pot, it's an electric pressure cooker. I think electric pressure cookers were rare or maybe didn't exist before Instant Pots came on the market, but don't quote me on that. My previous experience with pressure cookers was the stove-top one my mom used when she canned things when we were growing up. I also got a stove-top one at our wedding shower to use for canning. I used it for the first time this summer when I canned salsa verde. A stove-top pressure cooker is definitely a bit more intimidating. It's still not bad - you just have to watch it closely to make sure the pressure doesn't increase too much and you need to adjust the heat on the burner to make sure the pressure cooker stays at the pressure you want it at.

But the Instant Pot is easy peasy. You decide if you want to use high or low pressure (every recipe I've made calls for high pressure). You set a timer for how long you want the food to cook at that pressure level, and that's about it! The pressure will build in the Instant Pot and once it reaches the pressure level you've set (high or low), the timer starts. When the timer is up, the pressure naturally releases - or you can manually release the pressure by moving a pressure valve.

This might all sound really complicated, but I promise that it's straight forward once you start using an Instant Pot! The Instant Pot is actually a multi-purpose gadget, though, as it can be used as a rice cooker or a crockpot. It also has a saute function so if you make a recipe, like chili, that requires you to brown the meat or veggies, you can do that in the Instant Pot instead of dirtying another pan.

Since this is a fairly new gadget, I thought I'd share some of my favorite dishes we've made with ours! A quick tip:  One thing to keep in mind with these recipes is that they call for cooking at high pressure for a certain amount of time, but you also need to factor in about 10 minutes for the Instant Pot to reach high pressure, or possibly longer if you are making a soup because the contents of the Instant Pot need to heat up before it starts to generate steam.

1. Chicken Tikka Masala with Cauliflower and Peas - This is probably my favorite dish we've made in the Instant Pot. Phil and I LOVE Indian food so it's no surprise that we love this dish. This one takes a bit more time as you have to bring it to pressure twice - once when you cook the chicken with the spices/tomatoes and again after you add the cauliflower and peas. But it comes to pressure pretty quickly - especially the second time since the contents of the pot are already hot. If you like Indian food, I highly recommend this! We always have all the spices it calls for on hand and frozen peas, so it's an inexpensive dish to make as we just have to buy the chicken, ginger, and cauliflower.

2. Hard Boiled Eggs - Hard boiled eggs are something you can easily make on the stove-top, but they are sooo easy to make in the Instant Pot. Plus the eggs come out perfectly cooked and the shells literally slide off of them. You do need a steamer rack or trivet to make them in the Instant Pot, though, as the eggs can't touch the base of the Instant Pot. But my Instant Pot came with a steamer rack so hopefully that is the case for most! You just place the eggs on the steamer rack (make sure they aren't touching), add 1 coup of water and cook them on high pressure for 5 minutes, let the pressure naturally release for 5 minutes, manually release the rest of the pressure, and rinse them in cold water. You need to peel them right away but it's such a cinch to peel them!

3. Spaghetti Squash - I eat a lot of spaghetti squash in the summer and fall when it is in season. In the past I roasted it in the oven for 45-60 minutes, which really heats up the house. Cooking it in the pressure cooker is much faster as you only have to cook it on high pressure for 7 minutes! This is another recipe that requires a steamer rack or trivet.

4. Indian Vegetable Rice - This is one of our new favorite side dishes. I usually have all but a couple of the ingredients on hand so it's an easy side dish to make.

5. Moroccan Chicken - This is a new recipe that we tried this week that turned out great. I like that you don't have to cut up much for this recipe - just the onion and lemon (we actually left the lemon out as I forgot to buy one!). You also have to chop garlic but I don't consider that "cutting" since I use a garlic press.

6. Corn on the Cob - I know some people like to grill their corn on the cob but we prefer to steam it. To make corn on the cob in the pressure cooker, you just place the ears on top of the steam rack or a trivet, add a cup of water, and cook on high pressure for 2 minutes. I usually manually release the steam instead of letting it naturally release to avoid overcooking the corn.

We use the instant pot multiple times a week these days. I make hard boiled eggs every week as that's a great high protein snack or add-on to my breakfast. And this gadget is great for the summer months as it doesn't heat up your kitchen like the oven does!

Do you have an instant pot? Have you ever used a stove-top pressure cooker?

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Currently: May

Hey, hey, it's already the last week of May! This month has been a little bit less busy for us as we have far fewer doctor appointments (yea!). But the month has still gone by fast! Next month is my last full month of maternity leave so I am hoping it goes a little bit more slowly! Here's what's currently going on in my world.

Reading: Love and Ruin by Paula McLain. This author wrote "The Paris Wife" which was about Ernest Hemingway's first marriage. Her latest novel is about his 3rd marriage. I was excited to check it out since I loved The Paris Wife but I'm not loving this one as much. It's worth finishing but not as great as her other book.

Loving:  how smiley Paul is! Someone once compared the early stages of infancy to having a "high maintenance gold fish" meaning that you do lots for them and don't get a whole lot back. But now that I'm getting smiles from him often it makes him seem a bit more interactive. Plus there's nothing quite like having your baby lock eyes with you and give you a big smile!

Feeling: pretty tired. Paul started waking up more often a couple of weeks ago so I'm getting less sleep as a result. He eats quite a bit when he wakes up during the night so I know those wake-ups are necessary at this point. But I'm hoping he goes back to waking up just once a night when I return to work. Otherwise I feel like I might be a bit of a zombie when I return to work!

Anticipating: this upcoming long weekend. Weekends don't necessarily feel all that different for me since my "boss" Paul doesn't give me weekends off. ;) But having Phil around makes a huge difference as it's nice to have another set of hands to help out! Plus Phil tends to get up with Paul at least one day of the weekend so I can stay in bed and get a bit more sleep.

Watching: Season 2 of The Crown. We only have one episode left. I'll be so sad when it's over as it's something that both Phil and I enjoy. It has given me a new level of respect for Queen Elizabeth II. I always thought of her as a stiff and unfriendly person but now that I understand her path to the throne and how long she's been queen (I didn't realize she was so young when she became queen) I hav ea new level of respect and compassion for her. I would not want her life! I'm glad that another season will be coming out in December!

Grateful: that we have air conditioning. It's going to be in the 90s for next several days so we will need to run the air conditioner. Before we had Paul we would often tough it out and deal with the heat as Phil and I aren't huge fans of air conditioning. But now that we have a baby, we run the air so that he will sleep ok at night. He gets hot so easily and needs to sleep in a swaddle sleep sack, which is pretty warm, so air conditioning is mandatory during these hot stretches!

Working: on Paul's sleep habits. Up until this past week we've always had to sway or bounce him to sleep but starting this week, I've been putting him down to sleep when he is drowsy but still awake. It's important for babies to learn how to put themselves to sleep so they aren't completely reliant on their parents. Plus it's jarring for a baby to fall asleep in mom or dad's arms and then wake up in a bassinet. I've read that it would be like me falling asleep in bed and waking up in the front yard. ;) So far he's done really well with falling asleep on his own.

Listening: to the podcast, "In the Dark," This is the 2nd season of this podcast. The first season focused on the abduction and murder of Jacob Wetterling. This season is about a man who has been tried for a crime 6 times. It's really fascinating so far - and disturbing. It makes you realize how shady police work can be. 

Wishing: for a night of uninterrupted sleep.  I know this is not likely to happen for quite awhile but a girl can dream!

What are you anticipating, grateful for and listening to?

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Paul's First Road Trip + Lake Weekend

Paul and I headed out on our first road trip last Thursday. I was pretty nervous about how it would go as he doesn't really like his car seat and sometimes screams for the entire drive when we go to doctor appointments. But luckily he was an amazing traveler! Our first leg of the trip was a 3.5 hour drive to the town where my Grandma lives. He fussed a bit for the first 10 minutes and then slept until we were about 15 minutes from our destination. He cried/screamed for those last 15 minutes as he was hungry but we were so close that I didn't think it was worth it to pull over. When we got to my Grandma's, he gulped down 5.5 ounces and we headed to lunch where he drank 2 more ounces! This boy has finally found his appetite and is gaining weight like crazy!  Phew! Momma is so relieved.

After lunch, he fell asleep in the car on the way back to my Grandma's which worked out perfectly as he was sleepy when she held him. He's going through a stage where he is pretty terrified of anyone besides me or Phil. But he fell right back asleep so my Grandma got to rock a peaceful, happy baby.

I'm so thankful that my Grandma is alive and thriving. She will turn 95 this week but you wouldn't know it as she's in great health and is still very sharp. She emails and uses Facebook and has countless games of Words with Friends going on her computer. I can't seem to beat her at that game. She played Scrabble daily with her sister for many years so is wicked good at Scrabble!

The next leg of the trip was a one hour drive to my parents lake home. Luckily Paul slept for the entire drive! Woo hoo! My parents were so excited to see him as it had been almost a month since they had seen him at the baptism. He has changed quite a bit. He's smiling more and is overall more alert. His new thing is to clasp his hands together.

Sometimes it looks like he is praying.

Sometimes it looks like he's plotting how to take over the world.

He unfortunately continued to have "stranger danger" but my mom was still able to hold him quite a bit. We had a wonderful time at the lake. It's so peaceful there and it was great to have someone cooking for me. Plus my mom is always up for feeding Paul or changing his diaper! She also took care of him on Saturday morning so I could get some extra sleep which I really appreciated.

On Saturday morning, I woke up to the most beautiful sunrise I have ever seen. The picture doesn't do it justice. Before I saw the sunrise, I was kind of cranky about being up for the 3rd time during the night but once I saw the sunrise, I was thankful that baby Paul woke me up. :)

I think baby Paul is going to love lake weekends as much as his momma. We saw lots and lots of smiles that weekend.

Hopefully by our next trip he will be over this stranger danger phase. He's got 2 big fans who hate to see him cry when they hold him!

Our 2.5 hour drive back to Minneapolis also went smoothly. He slept for most of the drive and only cried for about 10 minutes. We'll take a couple more trips to the lake during my maternity leave so hopefully he continues to be such a great traveler!

Do you like road trips? I personally HATE driving but this trip was not bad at all since we could avoid traffic by leaving at off-peak times. 

Monday, May 14, 2018

My First Mother's Day!

Happy Monday, everyone! I hope you all had a great weekend and that all the Mothers and Mothers-at-heart had a special day yesterday.

I was very fortunate and got pregnant super fast after getting married so I did not spend much of my married life yearning to be a mother. However, I did yearn to be a mother for many years before getting married and always wondered when and if it would ever happen for me. So it was very special to finally be able to celebrate Mother's Day for the first time! My heart really goes out to all those who are waiting for their prayer to be a mother to be answered.

I spent the weekend leading up to Mother's Day at my parents lake cabin (more on that later this week!) but came back on Saturday night so I could spend Mother's Day at home. My dad surprised me with flowers, though. It is a beautiful arrangement and I love that it's arranged in a tea cup and saucer!

When we got home on Saturday evening, I walked into a clean house! Cleaning the house was Phil's gift to me which is perfect because I really do not enjoy cleaning these days and have a hard time making time to clean. His other gift to me was getting up with Paul on Sunday morning so I could sleep for 2 more hours. Paul has been getting up more often at night so I was very appreciative of this gift as I've been feeling really tired lately!

When I was up for the day, I grabbed a coffee at Starbucks and then headed to the grocery store. Phil offered to get groceries but grocery shopping alone now feels like a treat. Plus the store was really quiet on Sunday morning. I guess most moms didn't want to grocery shop on their special day. ;) I appreciated not having to wait in line to check out!

When I got home, Phil made brunch for us - scrambled eggs with hash browns topped with leftover pork from the take-out we'd gotten the night before. It was delicious!

After brunch, I headed to the local nursery by our house to pick up plants and seeds for my community garden plot. When I got to my plot I discovered that the water wasn't on yet. Womp womp. So I just put in my fence and turned over the dirt so that it would be ready to plant when the water is turned on later this week. I could have planted and brought some water over but that seemed like too much work and I didn't want to risk having any of my plants die as it's going to be pretty warm this week!

When I got home, Paul was still napping so I laid in our hammock for awhile and read my book, "The Garden of Small Beginnings." It's a light, fun read and perfect for a gardener as there is advice on gardening between each chapter!

Phil grilled chicken breasts for dinner that I had marinated in a Greek marinade. We had corn on the cob (which was surprisingly good!) and baked potatoes as sides. I forgot to take a picture but it was a delicious meal that only took about 15 minutes to make! Then I took Paul for a stroller walk in the hopes that he would take a short nap. He stayed awake for the whole ride even though he was yawning and rubbing his eyes.

When we got back, it was clear that he needed to go to bed as he was so tired so I gave him a bath.

Hanging out on the changing table before bath time
He LOVES bath time. He will go from meltdown mode to super happy as soon as he gets into his little whale-shaped tub!

I fed him a bottle and rocked him to sleep and he was down for the night around 8. He's starting to go to bed earlier lately which is nice as it gives me some time with Phil in the evening before I go to bed around 9:30. We watched an episode of The Crown. We are part way through season 2. I'm going to be so sad when it's over as we are loving the series. Season 3 comes out in December so we have a long wait for the next season!

I was in bed by 9:30 and fell fast asleep. One benefit of the exhausting newborn phase is that I fall asleep easily and tend to stay asleep until Paul's crying wakes me up. I know some moms struggle with insomnia when they have a newborn but so far that has not been the case for me and I hope I avoid it!

All in all, it was a lovely, quiet Mother's Day with lots of time spent outdoors. I couldn't have asked for a better day!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Podcasts, Books, and Workouts of April

April was quite the month. The first half was incredibly cold and snowy which made those first couple of weeks feel reeeeaaaaaallllly long. Luckily the weather improved in the second half of the month. We were able to get out for daily stroller walks which make a world of difference! Here's how my month shaped up!


Best of Both Worlds - I'm really enjoying this new-to-me podcast. So much so that I am going back and listening to all of the podcasts (I rarely do this so you know I really like it when I'm willing to go back and listen to all previous episodes). Both women come from pretty affluent households due to their professions and their husbands' professions so there's a good dose of privilege as they are able to employ nannies/household managers, house cleaners, etc, but there's still plenty to good things to take away from the episodes. I recommend this to other working moms/moms-to-be.


I managed to fit a lot of reading in this month. I continue to choose reading over TV so that is how I fit in so much reading. I tend to read when rocking him to sleep when we are up during the middle of the night and I also read during naps. Honestly, our house would be cleaner if I read less but right now I'm choosing reading over cleaning (most of the time - I do still clean our house, just not as often as I did pre-baby) because it's a form of self-care that I can fit into my life.

My favorite book of the month was Alternate Side by Anna Quindlen!

From Sand and Ash by Amy Harmon - 3 stars - This was a WWII book set in Italy. It was pretty good but not as good as other WWII books I've read.

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica - 4 stars - This was a great page turner about a girl that was kid-napped and kept in a cabin in Northern Minnesota.

Flat Broke with Two Goats by Jennifer McGaha - 4 stars - I really enjoyed this memoir about a couple who loses their home during the financial crisis. After losing their home, they move into a run down cabin in rural Western NC. The foreclosure happened as a result of some really terrible financial decisions (ahem, the husband - who is an accountant - didn't file/pay taxes for several years!!!) and they continue to make some pretty bad financial decisions, but it was interesting to read about how they simplified their life and attempted to live more off of the land. It's set outside of Asheville, NC, which is a place that is near and dear to my heart. The author references places/hikes I am familiar with so that made it an extra enjoyable read.

The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander - 3 stars - This memoir about the passing of the author's husband definitely falls into the 'literary' category. The writing was beautiful and the subject-matter is heavy/sad as she reflects on her courtship and marriage after losing her husband very suddenly.

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker - 4 stars - I've had this book on my kindle for years but put off reading it as I thought it was a fantasy book (fantasy is not my favorite genre). But it turns out that only 2 characters are fantastical. It was fun read with great character development.

Alternate Side by Anna Quindlen - 4 stars - I burned through this book. It's about a couple living in the upper west side of NYC. They live in a close-knit community located on a dead end street. A conflict happens in their community that sort of drives a wedge between the couple and their neighbors and also makes the couple examine differences they've struggled with during their relationship.


Woo hoo! After months of having to leave this section out, I am finally back to working out. Working out definitely looks different these days, but I'm happy to be back at it and am being patient with my recovering body. I started a Post-baby workout program in April which I'm really enjoying. I'm in the middle of the first 4-week section which focuses on gently returning to strength training. There are 3 strength training workouts/week, some of which are done during stroller walks. In addition to the strength training, I've been getting out for 45-60 minute stroller walks each day. It feels so good to finally be more active!

Monday, May 7, 2018

Baby Paul: 2 Months

Baby Paul turned 2 months last week! He was such a good sport for our 2 month photo shoot!


He still likes to make funny faces. He often looks like he is judging us.

He also likes stroller walks, as long as he isn't hungry. If he gets hungry during the ride, things go downhill fast!

He likes laying on his side on dad's lap. This will often calm him down if he gets upset. 

He also likes to be bounced before going down for a nap or to bed (which gives me quite the workout as it's like doing mini squats over and over and over), bath time, and laying on his changing table. 

His changing table is his "happy place." Note that his ankles are crossed - his ankles are pretty much always crossed!

Dislikes: his car seat, tummy time (he'll tolerate it if he's in a good mood but doesn't really care for it in general), and being overtired.

Sleeping: he's still a pretty good sleeper. He sleeps best if he goes to bed around 9-9:30 but some times he gets tired earlier so goes down around 7:30-8 and then he is up more often during the night. He used to predictably nap for 3 hours around 3pm but that is not the case anymore. Now he takes 2 longer naps (1.5-2 hours) during the day but we can never predict when those longer naps will happen! 

Feeding: he's still primarily eating bottles. He nurses in the morning and then at other times of day if he is fussy and I want to try to get him to calm down, especially in the evening. 

Growth:  He had his 2-month check up last week. He weighs 9 lbs so is not quite 1st percentile, so he is quite the peanut. His pediatrician was not concerned about his size, though, as he's hitting all his developmental milestones. She saw him smile and follow things with his eyes and she was impressed by his head control/neck strength and how strong his legs are. She said he is just growing at his own pace. She also saw him eat a bottle and was very happy to see that he is eating much, much better. 

He moved into some 0-3 month clothes as he was getting too long for a lot of his newborn clothes. 


We have some first coming up in the next couple of weeks. This week he'll go on his first longer car ride as we are driving about 3 hours so he can meet my grandma and then we'll spend a couple of nights at the lake with my parents. Hopefully our first longer car ride goes well! 

Then later this month, we'll be leaving him for a couple of hours so we can go out to celebrate our 1st anniversary. A couple of college friends will be watching him. He's recently become more afraid of strangers so I am hoping this goes ok. I know it's good for us to go out on a date so hopefully it goes ok and he doesn't scream the whole time we are gone! 

Overall, the first 2 months have been wonderful! They have gone by pretty fast since we've been busy with doctor appointments, but things should really slow down in mid-May and I'm hoping the remainder of my maternity leave goes by a little bit more slowly.