My friend Jill gives me the most wonderful and thoughtful birthday gifts. She finds the coolest stuff that I love and covet but that would still probably not buy for myself. She even buys me vintage stuff that I really use and love.
On the other hand, I buy her practical gifts like an Instapot.
I know, it’s not nearly as lovingly personal but in my defense, she is moving into her dream forever home, planning to plant a garden and I wanted her to have a versatile kitchen appliance that would help her save money and have a little fun in kitchen at the same time. Hence the Instapot.
I have been working with my own Instapot, figuring out the best ways to save money and the Chili/Bean option is a great one to try. Instead of cooking beans and legumes on the stove for hours or in the slow cooker all day, you can cook dry beans in mere minutes. The result is a taste far superior to that of canned beans which have a ton of sodium and that tinny, metallic taste. Just follow directions and once the beans are drained and cooled, you can store what you don’t use immediately in zipper type freezer bags. Lay them flat in the freezer to freeze. Once frozen, can turn them upright to save space; I stack mine like thin books, side by side. A dollar bag of beans cooks up the volume of five to six cans of beans so definitely worth the effort and a fundamental frugal kitchen strategy if ever there was one. My absolute favorite is chick peas which I use for hummus (recipe below) and many other recipes including my rustica pasta dish (recipe below).
Two more great money saving options are the Porridge and Multigrain. Oats are inexpensive and very dense nutritionally speaking. You can put oats in the Instapot the night before with some milk and dried fruit and the next morning within minutes, you have the perfect breakfast. I’ve now made wheat berries, barley, quinoa and ny number of other grains in mere minutes. Buy your grains in bulk and store in the freezer to extend their life. This works for beans as well though you can store either in glass jars for up to a year.
Dense root veggies are a personal favorite of mine but they take considerable time to cook which prevents a lot of people from buying and cooking them. Now you can take advantage of all of those frugal root veggies to your heart and colon’s content. You can now use the pressure option to quickly cook up carrots, beets and other dense root vegetables in mere minutes. My amazing beet dip recipe is below, an homage to my friend Jill who loves beets. I suspect she is busy pouring over the Instapot recipe book that I gifted her, trying to decide what to prepare first. Hint, try my beet dip recipe first, it is frankly amazing. And then try the carrot recipe, also below.
A fun idea to try is actually the yogurt option. I waited until milk by the gallon went on sale (two for the price of one!) and bought a second jug to make my own yogurt. This effort was a far cry from trying to make more than a cupful from the tiny little glass jars that used to sit overnight in the narrow yogurt maker. The process in my Instapot went quickly and the result was a delight. I simply bought one small carton of yogurt that had a live culture from my local grocery discount store. It cost me $0.49 and I let it sit to warm up to room temperature and then stirred it in the milk, following the yogurt making instructions. The result was many more times the yogurt I used to get from those tiny glass jars and it cost me the price of steeply discounted milk plus $0.49 worth of active yogurt culture. I use yogurt in my oatmeal, many of of my homemade marinades and dressings, frozen treats for both humans and dogs and as a base for many other foods so using up that much yogurt is not an issue for me. If you find yourself with extra yogurt about to go bad, mix it up with fruit and a dollop of honey and freeze to make a nice desert treat. Cheap and you didn’t waste the yogurt or the effort.
Home Style Chickpea Hummus
3-4 cups dried chickpeas
1/2 cup tahini sesame paste
4 cloves of garlic, whole
1 medium carrot, cut into coins
juice and zest of one lemon
Olive oil, salt and pepper
Method: Cook the chickpeas in your Instapot according to directions. Cool and freeze in zip lock freezer plastic bags, reserving 2 cups. Place the two cups of cooked chickpeas in your food processor along with the carrot coins and process. Mixture will be grainy. Add the garlic cloves, lemon zest and juice and turn on the food processor. Add enough olive oil in to make a smooth paste. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with warmed pita bread or crackers. The dip freezes well.
12 ounces of dried pasta, ziti or rigatoni both work great for this application
2 cups cooked chickpeas
1 large white onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jar red pasta sauce
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
Red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste
Method: Cook the pasta according to package directions. While the pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce by sautéing the onion slices in about 1/4 cup of olive oil. Once the slices are translucent, add the minced garlic and cook or 1-2 minutes. If you are adding in red pepper flakes, do so now. Add half the red sauce and half the chick peas and heat through. Mash the chickpeas with a potato masher to thicken the sauce. Season with salt and pepper and add in the rest of the sauce and the remaining chickpeas, leaving the chickpeas whole. Drain the pasta and toss with the sauce in the pan. Add in a bit of pasta water to thin out the sauce if necessary. Top with parmesan cheese and slivers of fresh basil slivers.
Amazing Beet Dip
2 large or 3 medium beets
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
Juice and zest from one lemon
2 tablespoons pepitas
Olive oil, salt and pepper
Method: Cook the beets according to directions in your Instapot. You can also roast them in the oven. Cool and peel. Cut beets into small chunks and place in the food processor along with the walnuts, molasses, juice and zest of one lemon. Turn on the food processor and process, drizzling in olive oil until you have a smooth paste. Garnish with pepitas after seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with raw vegetable sticks and crackers.
Note: If you can’t find pomegranate molasses, try honey or agave.
Carrots Three Ways
1 pound carrots, cut into small coins
1/4 or so of heavy cream
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup lemon juice mixed with one tablespoon honey, a splash of soy sauce and a teaspoon of cornstarch that has been mixed with a tablespoon of water to make a lemon-honey glaze
Salt and pepper to taste
Methods: Cook carrots according to directions in the Instapot until fork tender. For the first option, puree the carrots in the food processor with heavy cream, salt and pepper for creamed carrots. For the second method, toss cooked carrots with fresh thyme and butter. For the third method, glaze the carrots with the lemon glaze.