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Cooking with Instant Pots, a hot holiday gift

The Instant Pot was a hot Christmas gift for the cook. Kimberly P. Mitchell / Detroit Free Press

On Facebook, the official Instant Pot community page has nearly 800,000 followers. Nell Potter of New Boston, Mich., is among them. Potter loves using the Instant Pot so much that she actually owns four of the them. The 49-year-old medical transcriber has two 6-quart models and two 8-quart models. And she uses them all.

Having four multi cookers means she can do a main dish in one and side dishes in others. For a recent dinner, she made thick cut pork chops in one, a big batch of green beans in another and macaroni and cheese in the third.

"My husband bought me a new stove with five burners when we remodeled the kitchen two years ago," Potter said. "And I look at it sometimes, and I have to apologize to my stove because it doesn't get used."

Potter also holds onto her Crock Pot, but "like the stove, it's feeling lonely."

With Instant Pot, Potter likes that it cooks food quicker because "the longer you take cooking food, the more it loses its nutrients." An avid cook and runner who has participated in triathlons, Potter said nutrition is huge in her household.

"It's great (the Instant Pot) for people who want to eat healthy but feel they don't have the time," Potter said.

When Potter found out the Instant Pot was a pressure cooker she thought it was a good idea.

"I've been intimidated by pressure cookers, but this sounded so controlled," she said. After she got her first Instant Pot, Potter thought "where have you been all my life?"

While Potter makes plenty of main dishes, sides, soups and desserts, she was impressed by its yogurt function.

Although she was intimidated at first, she was thrilled to be able to make yogurt.

"The very first batch was amazing," she said. "It saves me a lot of money, the yogurt is fantastic, has no added sugar, and it's creamy."

Another Instant Pot Potter favorite is making sous vide egg bites — like the ones at Starbucks. The egg bites are made with cooked bacon placed in a small mason jar and topped with a blended mixture of eggs, cottage cheese, heavy cream, cheese, salt and a dash of hot pepper sauce. Once filled, the jars are placed in the Instant Pot and covered with foil.

"You steam them for 8 minutes, and they come out just amazing, beautiful, light, fluffy, cheesy, bacony; they're so good," Potter said.

Instant Pot's whole support system on Facebook for users is Potters favorite. It's where she finds lots of recipes through all sorts of groups and sub groups.

"And there are recipes where you throw a bunch of crap in there, and it's foolproof if you're not feeling confident as a cook," Potter said.

Lori Chapo-Kroger of Traverse City, Mich., is another Instant Pot fan. Like Potter, the 58-year-old retired nurse loves it so much, she has two.

"I can do potatoes or vegetables in one while the meat is cooking in the other," she said. "I can preset it to cook at a certain time so they both end at the same time.

"I like how quick things cook and how I can cook things from frozen if I forget to thaw them out," Kroger said. Chapo-Kroger said it's like the commercial: "Set it and forget it."

Chapo-Kroger has learned to cook plenty in the Instant Pot: lasagna, whole chicken, stews and soups. Bone broth is one of her favorites to make.

She uses the Instant Pot nearly every day.

"As long as it comes up to pressure, you don't have to stand over a stove and stir and flip food," she said.

While the Instant Pot helps Chapo-Kroger cook meals quickly, it also helps her in another way. Chapo-Kroger suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

"Part of it is that I have problems standing for any length of time," she said. "Other times because it affects every part of your body, if I didn't sit down or lie down, I could pass out."

And so, cooking over a flame was not safe for her.

Chapo-Kroger said it was a friend who recommended the Instant Pot.

"They thought it would help me make good, healthy foods, and I wouldn't have to stand long," she said.

Blogger and cookbook author Coco Morante's Instant Pot recipes Facebook page has more than 225,000 followers.

Out with her first cookbook, the Essential Instant Pot cookbook (Ten Speed Press, $19.95) Morante said the Instant Pot got on her radar after a friend couldn't stop talking about it and praising its usefulness.

"It's truly different experience from a stove top pressure cooker," she said. "What was surprising to me, is that it's really quiet, you don't have that rocking regulator noise."

Since buying an Instant Pot, she has donated her slow-cooker because she no longer needs it. Morante first experimented with basics like oatmeal, chicken soup, batches of beans and rice.

What she really liked about the Instant Pot, and was surprised by, is its fail-proof safety lock. "While it's under pressure, you can't open the lid," she said. "The safety and the quiet operation was surprising to me."

Morante cautions that it's not an appliance that you can just take out of the box, plug in and be set.

"It takes a little while to get the hang of the timing with some ingredients," Morante said. "If you're used to simmer a chicken soup for an hour and half on the stove. Getting an idea of how the pressure cooker works affects the timing."

Pork Roast with Mushrooms, Carrots and Potatoes

Serves: 4 / Prep time: 5 mins / Total time: 1 hour

2 pounds pork roast or pork shoulder

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 tablespoon grapeseed oil or olive oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

8 ounces large cremini mushrooms, cleaned, sliced

4 cloves garlic, peeled, minced

2 carrots, peeled, cut into large chunks

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1 cup unsalted chicken stock or low-sodium broth

2 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce

2 large russet potatoes, peeled, cut into large chunks

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons cold water

Turn the Instant Pot on and press the sauté button. Adjust to Sauté More function. Wait until the indicator says HOT.

Cut the pork roast in half so it will fit in the pot. Generously season the pork shoulder meat with kosher salt and ground black pepper. Add grapeseed oil to the pot, making sure it coats the whole bottom. Add in the seasoned pork, then let it brown as much as possible on all sides. Remove and set aside to rest for 5 minutes on a chopping board. While the pork is browning, prepare other ingredients.

Add the butter to the pot. Add in the mushrooms, season with a pinch of kosher salt and ground black pepper. Stir to evenly coat the mushrooms with butter. Mushrooms will start releasing their moisture. Let the moisture evaporate and stir occasionally until mushrooms are slightly crisp and browned, about 5-7 minutes.

While the mushrooms are sautéing, cut the browned pork into half-inch thick slices.

Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the carrots and bay and saute another 2 minutes.

Add balsamic vinegar and deglaze the pot, scrapping up any browned bits on the bottom. Stir in the chicken stock and soy sauce.

Mix in the chicken stock and the soy sauce.

Return the sliced pork shoulder meat with all the meat juice in the pressure cooker. Layer the potato chunks on the top. Close the lid and cook at High Pressure for 5 minutes. When time is up let sit for 10 minutes and then use the Natural Release method. Open the lid carefully.

Remove the pork roast slices, carrots and potatoes on a large serving plate. Taste the sauce and season with more salt if necessary. Stir together the cornstarch and water and stir the mixture into the gravy one third at a time until desired thickness. Pour the pork roast slices, carrots and potatoes back into the gravy and mix gently to coat them with the gravy.

Cook's note: the High Pressure 5-minute cook time is correct. It's due to the meat being cut into smaller pieces.

Mushroom & Spinach Risotto from recipes.instantpot.com

Mushroom & Spinach Risotto

Serves: 4 / Prep time: 25 minutes / Total time: 45 minutes

The traditional cooking method for risotto involves standing at the stove and stirring almost constantly to achieve the signature creamy texture of the dish. The Instant Pot eliminates that, turning out luscious risotto with the touch of a button.

2 tablespoons olive oil

⅓ cup chopped shallots

8-ounce package cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

¼ teaspoon salt

⅛ teaspoon crushed red pepper

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1 cup Arborio rice

¼ teaspoon dried thyme

1 tablespoon butter

2 cups baby spinach

⅓ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Select sauté on the Instant Pot and adjust to normal. Add oil to pot. When oil is hot, add shallots and cook for 2 minutes to soften, stirring occasionally. Add mushrooms, salt, and crushed red pepper; cook for 4 minutes or until mushrooms are tender, stirring frequently. Add garlic; cook and stir for 1 minute more.

Press cancel. Add broth, rice and thyme. Secure the lid on the pot. Close the pressure-release valve. Select manual and cook at high pressure for 6 minutes. When cooking is complete, use a quick release to depressurize.

Add butter and spinach to rice mixture; stir to wilt spinach. Stir in Parmesan cheese and serve.

From "Instant Pot Miracle: From Gourmet to Everyday, 175 Must-have recipes" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $22.99.)

Cookbooks get your Instant Pot bubbling

There's no shortage of cookbooks on the Instant Pot to get you familiar with it. With all the books, there are plenty of ideas, tips and advice along with lots and lots of recipes.

While there's a lot of inspiration, many of these books are all-around good reads that will give you the basics of what you need to know. Within the pages, you will find plenty of ethnic recipes, everyday recipes and desserts.

And so, if you got an Instant Pot (or other multi-cooker) this holiday season, here's a peek inside a few new cookbooks to help you get started.

"The Essential Instant Pot Cookbook: Fresh and foolproof recipes for your electric pressure cooker," By Coco Morante (Ten Speed Press, $19.95).

What: Coco Morante runs the Instant Pot Recipes Facebook page and has her own blog, www.leftyspoon.com. In this book, her first, she says, "Indeed the range of foods you can cook in the Instant Pot is nothing short of mind-blowing." Morante provides more than 75 recipes with chapters on breakfast, beans and grains, soups and chilies, poultry, beef and pork, vegetables, side dishes and desserts.

Best aspect: The cooking charts for meats, poultry, vegetables, rice and grains, beans and lentils are extensive. Morante provides, adapted from Instant Pot, cooking times, soaking times, pressure release options, fresh and frozen cooking times for vegetables.

Recipe to try: Chicken Cacciatore.

"Instant Pot Miracle: From Gourmet to Everyday, 175 Must-have recipes" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $22.99.)

What: From the editors of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, this book features recipes that use all the functions of the Instant Pot. The authors give an easy-to-read rundown on how to use the Instant Pot from the basic functions to pressure cooking to slow cooking to sautéing. All the recipes, they write, are tested using the 6-quart Duo, 7-and-1 Multi-Use Programmable Pressure Cooker. A comprehensive page on how to use the recipes in the book has detailed descriptions and definitions. There's plenty of full color photos and recipes range from Chai-spiced Breakfast Quinoa with Berries to Italian cocktail Meatballs to Asian-style Steamed fish & vegetables.

Best aspect: Recipes are held to one page and the prep time, function, closed pot time and total time are clear at the top of each recipe. Within the recipes, functions to choose are in bold.

Recipe to try: Mushroom and Spinach Risotto.

"How to Instant Pot: Mastering all the functions of the One Pot that will Change the Way You Cook" by Daniel Shumski (Workman Publishing, $16.95).

What: Breezy, can-do style of explaining what you need to know about all the functions of an Instant Pot. Shumski provides an in-depth look at Instant Pot's sauté option, which is one of the appliances best functions. Specifics are listed for heat setting temperatures and best uses for the sauté function. What's also helpful is the timings for all the preset functions, if you use them.

Best aspect: The chapters are divided by function (pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice maker, yogurt maker and steamer) with how-to and tips on the each function.

Recipe to try: Beef Barbacoa Tacos.

"The Art of Great Cooking with your Instant Pot" by Emily Sunwell-Vidaurri (Page Street Publishing, $21.99).

What: More than 80 recipes that are gluten-free and touted as "more nutritious" using an Instant Pot. Vidaurri's food blog is Recipes to Nourish and all the recipes in this book are designed to "... support your family's wellness we real, nutrient-rich and gluten-free ingredients." While the recipes call for using specifics like grass-fed butter or ghee, grass-fed beef and sustainable fish, they are easily adaptable. Nearly every recipe has a note offering a tip or technique or ingredient suggestion and a full-color photo.

Best aspect: Dessert and breakfast chapters are appealing. There are breakfast strata's and fritatta's, cheesecakes and bread pudding.

Recipe to try: Lemon-thyme Ricotta Cheesecake.

READ MORE: Must-have tools for your Instant Pot

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