Friday, May 17, 2019

Instant Pot Spaghetti and Meatballs

Use the Instant Pot to make spaghetti and meatballs the easy way--simple ingredients and only one pot to clean! This is a terrific recipe for campus cooking as it uses few ingredients and simple prep.

image of a shallow pasta bowl with pressure cooked spaghetti and meatballs and a side of garlic bread

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Hi and welcome to the first post in a new series I've started called Instant Pot on Campus. This summer I'm teaching my son how to use an Instant Pot electric pressure cooker to make simple meals. Later I'll stuff an Instant Pot box* into the already overloaded car and send him off to school, confident that I've built a foundation for success in the kitchen. *Military spouse tip--save your boxes.

Each Instant Pot on Campus post will have the following categories:
  • What to buy at the store
  • What you need in the kitchen
  • How to Level Up
  • The Recipe
  • What to do when something goes wrong
Please share this post with folks who are just starting out in the kitchen. Thank you!

Let's get to the first post in the series, Instant Pot Spaghetti and Meatballs!

What to buy at the store

photo of the ingredients needed to make 2 batches of Instant Pot spaghetti and meatballs (meatballs, noodles, spaghetti sauce)

You might as well buy the ingredients for a double batch, otherwise you're left with half a box of spaghetti in the cupboard and half a bag of meatballs in the freezer. Avoid the temptation to just dump the whole box of noodles in--you'll get a burn error message and probably won't end up with an edible meal.
  • 1 pound box of spaghetti noodles (thin, thick, regular . . . your choice)
  • 1 bag (24-32 ounces) of frozen meatballs
  • 2 cans or jars (24 ounces each) of spaghetti sauce
Since you're going to use the whole can or jar of spaghetti sauce at one time, go with the can. It's usually a better deal--unless you don't have a can opener. Cheaper items are usually located on the lowest shelves in the grocery store since companies pay extra to have their products displayed at eye level (and their prices reflect that).

Monday, April 29, 2019

Pineapple & Sweet Potato Muffins #MuffinMonday

These sweet muffins are packed with fruit--pineapple--and vegetable--sweet potato which add depth and character to a tender breakfast treat. Topped with maple sugar for crunch, this muffin is an all around satisfying snack.

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Welcome to Muffin Monday! I've been having so much fun baking muffins for the Detachment that I'm bringing a new one for you this month--a sweet potato muffin with pineapple in the batter.

image of a handsome Basset hound walking past a bowl of purple sweet potatoes, pineapple, eggs and brown sugar

The inspiration for this muffin came from the growers of these Stokes purple sweet potatoes--Frieda's. My first exposure to purple sweet potatoes came via the Mile Creek Farm Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm share. I had so much fun combining orange and purple sweet potatoes in my Overnight Sweet Potato Monkey Bread and playing with the vivid colors to make my Mardi Gras Braided Bread that I searched all over my new city until I located some purple sweet potatoes at my local natural foods coop.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

How to Save Money and Reduce Waste in the Kitchen

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Today's post is an update of one I wrote back when the big purple mountains were the little green hills. Back before I knew what SEO was, back when I'd be silly and creative with my post titles.
I've updated the post--but the behaviors I described back then are behaviors I still practice--today!
Since I am primarily a visual learner but I want to make these simple behaviors accessible to every learning style, I've created a series of short videos to help show what I mean. Let's get started!

Keeping your kitchen environmentally friendly is more than buying certain products. It's practicing certain behaviors that help to reduce waste and save you money. Did you know that about 31% of the solid waste in the US is food waste? I learned that scary fact at a Montgomery County Food Summit and wrote about my tips for reducing food waste here. I want to do more than reduce my food waste, though. I want to stretch my food dollars to make more meals for my family.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle becomes Reduce (x3), Reuse, Repurpose, and Regrow

The first R is Reduce. I practice 3 different "reduce" behaviors to save money, get fit, and do my part to save the planet. The biggest one is that I deliberately reduce the amount of meat I eat. I pay attention to the portion sizes and often use meat as a garnish. For example, instead of each person getting a single steak on a plate I'll grill a couple of steaks, slice them into strips, and we'll each have a serving of steak strips. It's plenty for us to eat at one sitting and there's usually leftovers for another meal. What's the best way to eat less meat? Eat more veggies! Here's a post I wrote on how to boost the vegetable content of your meals all day long.

I'll stretch a pound of ground meat into 6-8 servings by combining it with finely chopped vegetables. Some of my favorites include onions, celery, carrots, bell peppers, shredded zucchini or kohlrabi, chopped mushrooms, and corn. I use that veggie mix in tacos, in meatloaf, and in casseroles aka Hot Dish.
Here are some of my tried and true recipes to stretch meat:

One simple change I made to reduce the amount of food I eat is to reduce my every day plate size. Breakfast and lunch are often on 6½ inch plates. Snacks and desserts are on 5½ inch dishes. And dinners? I use an 8 inch "lunch" plate! I do keep my 11 inch dishes to use on Thanksgiving and other 'gimme all the sides' holidays when I'm wearing my eatin' pants. Piling food onto a smaller plate makes a smaller amount of food look more abundant, and that's another way I reduce the amount of food I need to buy.

The final Reduce I'd like to share is about drinks. If your go-to drink is tap water, more power to ya! I save money and reduce the amount of waste I'm generating by reducing the amount I spend on fancy single serve drinks. This doesn't mean I don't meet a friend for coffee--that's the happy exception to my daily normal. I bring a cup with me when I go out to reduce the single use packaging waste. I choose to make my go-to fancy drink (for me, Iced Chai) at home. Here's my DIY Iced Chai recipe. This Spring I'm testing out different methods to make a DIY version of the slightly sweet fruity tea that we like to drink on expeditions.