The Orange Door’s newest appliance

I’ve owned a stovetop pressure cooker before and found it to be an appliance that was okay to use. It didn’t live up to its promises (so fast!) but did prepare food slightly faster than the conventional stovetop method. I think my stovetop pressure cooker broke, or I wandered away from it and donated it.

However, I was intrigued by the Instant Pot because it has both the pressure cooking attributes and a slow cooker function. I hadn’t replaced my slow cooker when it broke and I did, from time to time, wish I had another one.

The price was prohibitive, and I’ve been biding my time, figuring eventually someone would have theirs up for sale for cheap because it didn’t quite fit into their cooking routine. However, this weekend Fred Meyer put their 6-quart jobber on sale for $79.99 plus a $10 FM gift card and I snapped it up. It actually rang up even cheaper than that ($59.99) which I reluctantly told the cashier. She shrugged, and let me have it for the lower price.

I’ve had this for two weeks now and can report that I think this will be a permanent and well-used part of my cooking tools. Here’s the reason why: it’s a countertop appliance. Most of my cooking is done in one or two long sessions on the weekend. This means that sometimes space on the burners is at a premium. Being a countertop appliance, I can set something up, program the timer, walk away, and continue doing four other things until the Instant Pot cooking cycle is over. With a stovetop pressure cooker, not only did I lose a burner, but also I had to do a good amount of futzing with the burner setting to maintain pressure.

I love also that I can sauté in the Instant Pot. With my slow cooker, I would have to sauté in a pan and transfer the food to the slow cooker. Otherwise everything came out with the same mushy long-cooked flavor that I didn’t enjoy.

I haven’t yet used the slow cooker function, so I have no report on that, but Steam, Rice, Soup and the pressure cooking functions have worked very well for me. In fact, on Saturday I used the Instant Pot six times, making brown rice, white rice, black beans, red beans, chicken and lentil soup, and Indian butter chicken.

First-time users of pressure cookers might find the time savings to be negligible. You have to let the unit come to pressure, which takes time, and then it cooks at pressure, and then while you can quick release, for some things you have to let the pressure cooker come down naturally from full pressure, and by that time, you could have just done it on the regular stove.

But I was aware I wouldn’t win much time. And unaware of how freeing the Instant Pot would be.

Requiem: garlic smasher

Thanks to this blog, I can tell you that I’ve owned this item since November 30, 2015. Alas, it has now broken. This was the most-used item that I purchased with my going-away gift certificate, though I still use the cheese slicer a lot and the stem thing when I have herbs to deal with.  Have I made a cocktail since that post? Possibly not.

I will miss my garlic smasher.  I’m not sure if I will miss it enough to purchase another one, though.

A past way of meal planning

I had a spiral-bound recipe book and was integrating those recipes into my regular recipe 3-ring binders.  In the front were some notes from when I was pantry-style cooking and whipping things up.  I had my monthly shopping list, my regular breakfasts, my rotation of beans, and a list of things to make regularly to have on hand to assemble meals. Plus my cooking plan and a rotation so I would buy specialty oils on a regular basis.

If memory serves, this was a moderately successful venture. While I’m good at cooking from recipes, I’m not the greatest at taking prepared ingredients and making a fabulous meal, possibly because I’m not good at seasoning food. Thus, everything kind of tastes the same.

I think after this I signed up for a monthly Stonesoup subscription where she sent me six (or seven?) 5-ingredient recipes. That cost $20 per month and I did that for about a year.

Vintage Cakes: Cassata Cake


According to Vintage Cakes, this cake was brought to America at the turn of the 20th century from Sicily and has flourished in Ohio. This version is a vanilla cream cake with ricotta-cream frosting, orange zest, chocolate shavings, and blueberries. The blueberries were supposed to be strawberries, but it must have been very cold in California this spring, because strawberries were not to be found.

I didn’t love this particular flavor combination, but I knew that going in.  It was a good cake, otherwise.

Hot tip: use your double timer to your advantage

One of the annoying factors of baking cookies is having to turn the cookies halfway through the baking time. If I’m using the oven timer I have to remember to reset the timer. It’s not unusual for me to forget this, usually on the last round of cookies.

However!  I now have this timer that can have three different times running on it, and it occurred to me that I could set the top timer for half time and the second timer for the full time and then start them both at the same time. Then, as I’m rotating the cookies, that second timer just keeps counting down. Brilliant!

Spiraling is fun

I won a drawing and the prize was a $50 Visa gift card. I spent it on a spiralizer and my goodness, but that is a fun, superfluous kitchen item.

I’ve made pasta from scratch before, and it’s a so-so endeavor. The pasta wants to break a lot as you are rolling it out, and my memories of it are that it doesn’t taste as good as dried pasta.

But vegetables?  They don’t break!  If the surface being spiralized is big enough, the strands just keep getting longer. It’s very satisfying.

Enchilada Bubble Up Casserole

I got very excited at the thought of a bubble up casserole, wherein the stuff below bubbles up between the bits of dough and it all cooks together into one delicious mass. So I made one. This is from Budget Bytes (and thank you, Jan, for the recommendation. It’s a great site.)

Sadly, I had too many biscuit drops and they all grew together before the enchilada sauce could bubble up. Only around the outsides did the bubbling up happen like I thought it would.

It was still very good. Also, I didn’t follow the directions fully and I accidentally put the cheese on before I put the biscuit pieces on. I think it looks better that way, anyway.

Mom’s Birthday cake 2018


Mom requested chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting for her birthday. And that’s what she got. This was a delicious chocolate cake (following the directions, I made a “pudding” first) and the cream cheese frosting nicely set it off.

The cats were also interested in the cream cheese frosting, and knocked the leftover cake off the counter in an attempt to get to it. They were thwarted by the Tupperware container.