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A&I Week 2 blog - National Slow Cooking Month

Thursday, January 16, 2020

This week for the Aspire/Inspire Team Buddy Support Group January challenge, we were asked to blog about one of three different options. The option I choose was to blog about National Slow Cooking Month.

January is National Slow Cooking Month which encourages us to make delicious meals and maximize our time by using our slow cookers. Do you use a slow cooker? If so, please share one or more slow cooker recipes.

I don't have a Crock Pot (a.k.a. slow cooker) but I do have an Instant Pot that can be used as a slow cooker. When it's cold outside I tend to make a lot more soups because they warm you up and you can get several meals from them, especially if you make a big batch like I tend to do. The other great thing about making a big batch of soup is that you can freeze some of it for later.

So, here are a couple of my favorite recipes.

Instant Pot Beef and Vegetable Soup from AllRecipes.com

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pounds boneless beef chuck roast, cut into cubes, or to taste
5 large carrots, chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped6 cups water
3 large turnips, peeled and diced
1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed and sliced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons salt, or more to taste
2 tablespoons garlic powder, or more to taste
1 tablespoon onion powder, or more to taste
1 tablespoon celery seed
2 bay leaves
ground black pepper to taste

Prep Cook Ready In
30 m 50 m 1 h 30 m

Heat olive oil in a multi-functional pressure cooker (such as Instant Pot(R)) and select Saute function. Cook beef cubes until brown on all sides, 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Cook carrots, onion, and celery until translucent, about 5 minutes. Return beef to the pot; add water, turnips, green beans, tomato paste, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, celery seed, and bay leaves.
Close and lock the lid. Select high pressure according to manufacturer's instructions; set timer for 30 minutes. Allow 10 to 15 minutes for pressure to build.
Release pressure using the natural-release method according to manufacturer's instructions, 10 to 40 minutes. Unlock and remove the lid. Taste the soup; add more salt, garlic, onion, and pepper, if needed.
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Nutrition Facts

Per Serving: 265 calories; 14.7 g fat; 18.2 g carbohydrates; 16.4 g protein; 51 mg cholesterol; 1905 mg sodium. Full nutrition

Here is the link to the recipe if you want to print it or find similar recipes

One of other favorite recipes is from a friend of mine on SP and on Facebook. The recipe was originally for making on the stove but at the end there is a note about making it in the Instant Pot.

Mediterranean Lentil Soup

Lentils are a very healthy carbohydrate source with lots of fiber. This soup freezes well if you want to save part of it for another day.

Prep time 20 min, 8 Servings, Serving size about 1 cup

Nutrition Facts Amount per serving:
Calories 150, Total Fat 3.5g, Saturated Fat 0.5g, Cholesterol 20mg, Sodium 490mg, Total Carbohydrate 18g, Dietary Fiber 6g, Total Sugars 4g, Protein 12g, Potassium 510mg

canola oil 2 tsp or more if necessary (I usually use olive oil because that's what I always have on hand)
onion (diced) 1
garlic (minced) 2 clove
fresh Italian turkey sausage (meat squeezed out of casing), 1 pound
chicken broth (reduced-sodium, fat-free) 32 oz
tomatoes (14-ounce, diced) 1 can
water 3 cups
dried lentils 1 cups
black pepper 1/2 tsp
dried oregano 1/4 tsp
bay leaf 1

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 3 minutes or until clear. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds.
Add the turkey Italian sausage and cook about 8 minutes until brown. Add the remaining ingredients.
Bring the soup to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Instant Pot Version: For the onion, garlic, and italian sausage I browned using the Saute function on my Instant Pot. I used the same ingredients but increased cup of Lentils to 2 cups and decreased water to 2 cups. I used the Soup function on the Instant Pot.

One final one is:

Step One: Clean your Instant Pot.

This sounds like a no-brainer. But I am not talking about simply washing your Instant Pot–you need to sanitize your inner pot.
You can prepare your inner pot for making yogurt by pouring boiling water in the inner pot and then discard the water.
This step can be skipped, but it helps drastically in the flavor of your yogurt–especially if you have been making a lot of Instant Pot Chili.
Sanitizing inner pot of Instant Pot with Boiling water

Step Two: Heat your Milk in your Instant Pot.

Pour 1/2 gallon milk into your inner pot of your electric pressure cooker, put the lid on the Instant Pot (vent can be sealed or not sealed in this function). Hit yogurt function and then the adjust button until it says Boil.
When the Instant Pot beeps that it is done, remove the lid and test the temperature to be sure the milk has reached 180 degrees.
I like to leave the inner pot in the Instant Pot for 5 minutes before removing. This helps the yogurt thicken up a bit better.
Instant Pot with word Boil displayed

Step Three: Cool the milk to approximately 105-115 degrees.

Cooling the milk to this temperature takes about 1 hour if placed on counter.
I like to speed the process up by placing the inner pot into a large mixing bowl in ice water. This take about 15-20 minutes.
Digital thermometer inserted into yogurt and reads 108 degrees

Once your milk has reached the proper temperature, skim off the top layer of milk “skin” that has formed on top of the liquid.
This helps to give you the creamiest of yogurts.

Use either prepared yogurt or a yogurt starter and whisk into your prepared milk.
It is important to note that if using prepared yogurt you need to be sure it is plain yogurt with live and active cultures.
If your starter is sweetened or does not have live cultures, making yogurt at home will NOT work!

To finish making your yogurt, place your inner pot back in your Instant Pot with lid on (again, it doesn’t matter which way valve is set).
Hit Yogurt again button again.
Adjust until it reads 8:00 or 8 hours.
Then let the Instant Pot do it’s thing.

Transfer to glass jars or a plastic container.
Refrigerate and Enjoy!

It is a bit harder to make yogurt without a yogurt button on a pressure cooker, but it is possible.

It is a bit harder, but it is possible.
Pour milk into inner pot of pressure cooker.
Turn on the Sear/Saute function.
Heat milk to 180°F. Use a thermometer to check the temp often and be sure to stir very often so milk does not scorch.
Once the milk reaches 180°F, turn off your pressure cooker.
Remove inner pot and cool to 108 degrees.
Once your milk has reached 108 stir starter yogurt and whisk until incorporated.
Put inner pot back in instant pot and place lid on pressure cooker.
Wrap in a large towel, or two regular towels and incubate for at least 8 hours or 10 hours.

If you would like to make Greek yogurt instead of regular yogurt, follow all the instructions for homemade yogurt.
Once yogurt is prepared, place a large strainer lined with cheesecloth over a large mixing bowl.
You may need to do this in batches depending on the size of your strainer.
Allow the yogurt to drain in the strainer overnight.
Scoop out the thick yogurt into containers to store and discard the cheesecloth.
Plain yogurt straining over cheesecloth

You can either discard the whey or you can use it in smoothies, oatmeal, protein shakes, etc. It will be filled with protein and probiotics.

Can you use skim milk to make yogurt in your electric pressure cooker?

Yes you can, with a few important tips.

I have found for nonfat yogurt, 3 tablespoons of yogurt added to 1/2 gallon milk works best.
Nonfat yogurt will have quite a bit more liquid on the top than yogurt made with full or reduced fat milk.
Just carefully drain off the layer of liquid that forms on the yogurt and discard.
As nonfat yogurt sits, liquid will begin to separate again, just mix into yogurt before serving.
Inner pot being tilted to show that extra liquid created when making skim yogurt

Homemade yogurt should last for up to 10-14 days in your refrigerator.
Be sure to save 2 tablespoons of your homemade yogurt to make your next batch.

I have found homemade yogurt to be so much smoother and a bit sweeter than store bought yogurt and simply enjoy it topped with fresh berries or homemade granola.

Make yogurt as directed.
Mix in 1 tablespoon vanilla extract into prepared yogurt.
This will flavor the yogurt without any added sweeteners.
**If you like your yogurt to be sweet, you can add in honey, maple syrup or sugar adjusted to your desired level of sweetness. I would start with no more than 1/4 cup, and increase by a tablespoon at a time.

I use 1 tablespoon prepared yogurt for every quart of milk. Therefore for 1/2 gallon of milk, I whisk in 2 tablespoons of already prepared yogurt into my milk.
You can cut this recipe in half if you would like. If you have an 8 quart pressure cooker, you can also double this recipe for homemade yogurt.
Do NOT try to make homemade yogurt with flavored yogurt as your starter. You need to either use a yogurt starter or plain yogurt with active live cultures. How do you know if you store-bought yogurt has live cultures? The label on the yogurt will say Lactobacillus bulgaricus or Streptococcus thermophilus.
A huge tip for making yogurt in the future, is to FREEZE your starter immediately after fresh yogurt is made. I recommend using an ice cube tray. Each ice cube holds 1 tablespoon of yogurt so you will know exactly how much yogurt to defrost when making a new yogurt batch. Just be sure to thaw your yogurt cubes in the fridge to not alter the cultures in the yogurt.
If you would like tangier yogurt, set incubation period to 10 hours instead of 8 hours.
If you need more tips on how to use your instant pot or are confused about some of the functions or pieces I mentioned, check out my Instant Pot 101.
Get more easy, healthy instant pot recipes here.

I've made greek yogurt once in my Instant Pot. I want to do it again but haven't made the time. Maybe this spring or summer I will.
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