What’s for supper? Vol. 74: This is why everyone needs an Instant Pot

Maybe you’re wondering what is the big deal about the Instant Pot. Is it really so great? Why does everyone go so cuckoo over it? Should I be worried that my spouse has bought a pair of spotless doves and is sharpening a knife?

And why does Simcha insist on making these embarrassingly chimpy images with very primitive software and a crying toddler on her lap?

I have the answer.  To the first question, not the second.

It’s because of risotto.

Risotto, risotto, risotto. I love risotto with my whole heart, but it is a pain in the neck to make. Hovering over the pan, stirring, adding in a little broth, stirring, waiting, simmering, waiting, stirring, adding some more broth, stirring, waiting, and it smells divine, but your entire life is passing you by while you wait for it to be done.

In the Instant Pot, it’s easy. Truly easy, and fast. And it tastes just as good as the difficult kind. This, in itself, is a reason to own an Instant Pot. All the other stuff is bonus. Now you know!

Here is the obligatory reminder that all my links to Amazon products are Amazon Associates links, and I get a small percentage of every purchase made using my links. Amazon is restructuring its pay scale soon, to the detriment of people who mostly plug books and toys; so I would be very, very grateful if you could bookmark my link and use it any time you shop on Amazon!

I’m gonna come right out and tell you: we rely on Amazon for our car payments. My husband has a 1.3-hour commute, and absolutely needs a reliable car. So! Please use my links, so my husband doesn’t have to drive to work in the Instant Pot. It’s good, but it’s not that good.

Thank you.

And now, back to risotto.

Last Friday, we had tuna fish patties and butternut squash risotto. I used this butternut squash risotto recipe from Good Housekeeping. I used onions instead of shallots, ground sage instead of fresh, and regular old white rice instead of arborio. It was fabulous. Creamy but not mushy and packed with flavor. Amazing.

I spent a good half hour wandering around the house, taking people by the shoulders, holding them with my glittering eye and quothing at them, “Do you even realize the possibilities?” Risotto with fresh tomatoes. Risotto with bacon. Risotto with scallops or garlicky shrimp. Risotto with asparagus and gorgonzola. Risotto with lemon, mint, and peas. Risotto with hazelnuts. Risotto with saffron and fennel. I don’t even know what fennel is! But I will!

The other reason for having an Instant Pot is because venting the steam is fun. Some days, it is the most fun you will have all day.

***

SATURDAY
Hamburgers, chips

Cousins over again. They responded very positively, with shrieking, to the idea of hamburgers and chips. So let it be written; so let it be done. I had planned sweet peppers and hummus, but there were just too many runny noses and double dippers in the population, so, in the interest of good health, we skipped the veg.

***

SUNDAY
Chicken cutlets with basil; mushroom risotto; salad

Farewell to cousins and hello to my parents. Here is my niece with one of her favorite playthings: My father’s beard.

Damien made one of his absolute most magnificent dishes, the late lamented Deadspin’s chicken cutlets. You pound the chicken flat, bread it (Damien used panko crumbs), fry it (Damien used olive oil and butter), then top it with a fresh basil leaf and a slice of cheese (Damien used mozzarella, but provolone is great, too), and ladle some homemade tomato sauce over that.

This meal makes me go absolutely insane. It’s so good, you can’t imagine. As I ate it, I thought of starving people in the third world and then thought, “TOO BAD.” With these chicken cutlets, you could — dare I say it? Rule the world.  

Also, I had some mushroom left over from last week, when I accidentally didn’t make soup. So I went with this mushroom risotto recipe from This Old Gal. This Old Gal discourages using plain old regular mushrooms, but I did it anyway, and it was good. I didn’t have fennel or parsley, so I went with sage again, and really peppered it up. Completely delicious.

***

MONDAY
Leftovers with spaghetti

Damien had made 38 chicken cutlets, so we put the leftovers in a pan, spread the rest of the sauce over it, added a layer of sliced cheese, and warmed it up in the oven, then served it on spaghetti.

There was no leftover risotto because I devoured it for lunch.

I feel like there was salad.

***

TUESDAY
Korean beef bowl; rice; steambed broccoli and cauliflower

I just noticed that I wrote “steambed” instead of “steamed,” but I think the “b” expresses how lightly I didn’t steam them.

Have you tried Korean beef bowl yet? You won’t regret it.

It’s so easy, and it’s just spicy enough to be warming and comforting, without assailing your mouth. Wonderful use for ground beef. Also a wonderful use for immortal zombie scallions, if you happen to have any haunting your kitchen.

I used, you’ll never guess, the Instant Pot for the rice. This really is easier than stovetop rice. It comes out slightly sticky, which we like, and you just put in water, rinse the rice and dump it in, and then press a button and walk away.

Oh, I thought of another advantage for the Instant Pot. InstantPot.com has plenty of useful, simple recipes, like the rice one above. It also has a slew of completely bonkers recipes that were apparently written by a malicious robot who flunked out of ESL. Here is one of my current favorites: Beer Potato Fish!

A photo of something, who knows what?

“The Beer Potato Fish would be a challenge for a non-professional cooker,” it muses, shaking its head in empathy for the old, dark days so tragically rife with amateurish attempts at beer potato fish, “But it is now a different story with Instant Pot Programmable Pressure Cooker.”

It calls for a pound of fish, some oyster flavored sauce, a cup of beer, and a tablespoon of rock candy. Doesn’t that sound tasty? It also instructs you to push the fish button, which does not exist. I suppose someone is making money off this in some way, and I kind of feel like they deserve it.

***

WEDNESDAY
Oven-roasted pork ribs; mashed potatoes; mixed veg

The Instant Pot had acquitted itself so well this week, I thought maybe I’d try one of the many, many pork rib recipes that are available. But then I remembered that I could also sit on the couch and tell my son how to some pork ribs in a 450 oven on a roasting rack with a little salt and pepper, and I knew they would be scrumptious. And so I did, and so they were.

If there’s a better way to prepare pork ribs, I just don’t care.

I also considered making Instant Pot mashed potatoes, but the recipes all looked more complicated than stovetop recipes. So I just went ahead and boiled them in a non-instant pot and mashed them. I left the skin on, which I almost never do. To me, this adds excitement and piquancy. To others, it’s like hanging around with that weirdo who keeps on harping on the idea that, in many regions, apple cores, corn cobs, and chicken bones are considered a delicacy.

The vegetables were that good old supermarket blend of frozen peas, carrots, corn, string beans, and lima beans. This makes me feel six years old, in a good way.

***

THURSDAY
English muffin pizzas

Since our bishop has given us a St. Patrick’s Day dispensation to eat meat on Friday, we did our meatless meal on Thursday. Except I forgot, and had leftover Korean beef bowl for lunch. For my penance, I had massive heartburn all night, and dreamt I was endlessly editing and re-editing a blog post about best and worst dresses of the Oscars; only I had to do it on taped-together paper with sidewalk chalk and then take photos of it with a Kodak disc film camera.

So, I am all caught up on Lent.

***

FRIDAY
Corned beef boiled dinner; Dublin coddle

So, St. Patrick is, like, the second-tier patron of our regional arch-diacistry, or something; and my husband is tremendously Irish, so we prayerfully discerned that have no choice but to eat three different kinds of meat today.

The kids love boiled dinner, so I’ll be cooking up some corned beef with red potatoes, cabbage, carrots, and adorable little onions, and serving it with gobs of mustard, as St. Patrick himself did. It’s how he drove the snakes away.

We’re also trying a new dish, Dublin coddle (recipe from Southeast Missourian, for some reason) which is a nice little thing with bacon, sausage, sweet and russet potatoes, herbs, carrots and apples. No argument from me. The two other recipes on this page actually sound way better. Maybe when I win the lottery.

Nobody likes soda bread, because it is terrible. Last year, I looked up authentic irish desserts, and quickly discovered why people usually just go with, like, brownies with green frosting.

Like it was part of his name

naples_-_old_couple_1890s

My husband and I both work at our computers off and on throughout the day, and we email back and forth a lot.  Every once in a while, I get what looks like an empty message from him — just a series of dots in a box.  This makes me  laugh every time, because I know what happened:  It’s just Gmail being too smart for its own good again.  When you end every email the same way, Gmail thinks it’s your signature, and thinks it doesn’t have to include it in every email, especially if it’s a response to a response to a response to a response to a response.  The recipient must know who it’s from by now.  So smart, right?

And so, when I get an empty email from my husband, I know it’s because he wrote “I love you.”  He says it so often, at the end of so many emails, Gmail thinks it’s part of his name.  Gmail thinks that’s who he is.

I used to be skeptical of people who dashed off a hasty “I love you” all the time.  “Don’t forget to pick up some ketchup and laundry detergent!” — “‘Kay, love you!” Way to cheapen the sentiment, I thought to myself.  Why not save it for when you can say it from the bottom of your heart?  That way, you both know it really means something.

I don’t know if I’ve grown softer or what (mentally, I mean.  Physically, there’s no question), but I’ll tell you what:  I need it now.  I need to hear him tell me he loves me, over and over again, especially when we’re talking about ketchup and laundry detergent and dentist appointments and parent-teacher conferences and taxes and who needs more fiber in their diet.  I need the reminder that he knows who I am, even on the days when, according to our accomplishments, we could easily be replaced by some unskilled laborers and an adding machine.

And I need to hear it when I know he’s mad at me.  He writes it then, too.  He always writes it, and he always means it, because that’s who he is.  It’s almost like it’s part of his name.

Husbands and wives, do this for each other.  Say “I love you.”  You don’t have to do it all the time, but do it!  Don’t let it go unsaid.  We all need to say it, we all need to hear it.  And, if we want to stay married, we have to act like we mean it.

***

[This post originally ran at the National Catholic Register in 2013.]

Image: Anonymous (Old postcard) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

May I help you lug that bundle of shame?

“Well, I did change the lightbulb,” my husband, gathering up the last bits of my underwear out of the milkweed.

“That’s awesome,” I said. “I’m sorry I crushed the picnic table.”

“No problem,” he says. “At least we made it to the swamp first.”

So what happened, see, was my husband asked me if there was anything he could do for me. He is a wonderful man, and asks me this question often. The catch is, I find it so deliriously romantic that this big, tall, handsome man with smoldering eyes and a cleft chin wants to do things for me that my answer tends to be, “Ohhh, no-o-o-, I’m fine!” and then later, when I get out of his beautiful eye tractor beam, I remember, “Dammit, I should have said shovel dog poop! Or at least do something about all those bean cans full of meat grease on the stove!”

But this time I was ready, and I said, “YES, can you change the lightbulbs in our room?” Our room is pretty small, and you have to stand on the bed to reach the light fixture, and I have such a poor sense of balance that the torquing motion involved in unscrewing the little knob tends to make me fall over, and then I’m sprawled out on the bed and the whole “Mr. Brown Eyes” thing comes into play again; and the problem is that you can unscrew a little knob, but you can’t unscrew . . . well, anyway, now we have ten kids.

So this time, I wanted him to change the lightbulb.

Which he did, while I worked on my shopping list in the next room. And I heard a popping sound, followed by a tinkling sound, and then some cussing. With some reluctance, I strolled in to investigate, and found him standing on the bed looking sadly at his feet, which were generously dusted with bits of light bulb. “You should be able to toss a light bulb onto a soft bed!” he said, and I agreed. But I guess if it lands just right — for instance, if you toss it right onto the glass light fixture you just removed — then it will cetainly explode.

The part that was my fault was that I am a huge slob, and I leave my dirty clothes all over the bed and floor. And also one pair of pants that isn’t dirty, because I’ve never actually worn them out of the bedroom. Every few weeks, I like to put them on, feel sad about how fat I of course still am, and then pull them off and drop them on the floor. All, all were covered with little bits of broken glass.

We picked out all the big, easy bits of glass and then gathered up the bedsheets like a giant bag, bundling in blankets and towels and a week’s worth of laundry, and my husband lugged it out the front door (we couldn’t go out the back door because it was full of dog). I held my breath, waiting for some unfortunate child to say something about how Daddy looks like Santa, but for once they all shut up, so no one had to die. Then we lugged the bundle into the back yard and my husband said to put it on the picnic table, so we could carry it more easily.

It wasn’t a bad idea, but it was a bad table. I got it from the side of the road, and it makes my kids unhappy because (1) it reminds them of the time I embarrassed them by picking up rotten old tables, and one kid had to ride in the back of the Blazer with the door open so the table didn’t fall out, which was scary; and (2) when you touch it, the legs fall off. But it was free!

We did make it to the swamp, set the table down, and started picking out various sheets and pants and bras and shaking them vigorously into the “Dead Marshes” part of the yard, where we throw things we don’t want to deal with (rotten jack-o’-lanterns; dog poop; meat grease in bean cans; bedding from dead pets; dead pets).

I thought we were doing pretty well, and working our way through the heap pretty briskly. I didn’t start laughing until I heard my husband go, “Shit. shit. shit. oh, shit.” It wasn’t even a big deal. He was just trying to pick my striped sweater off a small blackberry bush that it had gotten heavily involved with, and I suddenly realized that the neighbors , with their bird’s eye view of our back yard, must be wondering for the millionth time, “What in the hell are those people doing?”

It brought to mind the time we were renting a house that was in rather poor repair, and one day the toilet just started angrily spouting stenchy water, which rushed downhill from the bathroom, down the stairs and out the door in an endless river of things that reminded me of why I didn’t want to live in that town anymore. I couldn’t figure out how to turn the water off, and while I was waiting for someone competent to come help, I decided, with the crystalline clarity so typical of these moments, that it would be best to gather up all the towels and blankets in the house and try to sop up the river before it warped the floors.

Then, crystalline, I would gather up the bundle — and why didn’t anyone warn me that such a large part of adult life would include gathering up bundles of things you are ashamed of? — and drag them out to the curb, wring them into the sewer, and bring them back inside for more sopping. And sobbing.

On my fourth trip out to the sewer, I realized that a little girl and her mother were sitting on the opposite curb, watching my frantic and wretched efforts with wide eyes. The little girl said softly to her mother, “Mommy, what is that lady doing?” And the woman answered just as softly, “Sweetie, I don’t know.”

The memory of this made me laugh so hard that I fell onto the picnic table, crunching it completely flat into the ground. But, my husband wisely pointed out, at least we were pretty much done shaking the glass out of stuff.

But he did change the light bulb! And what’s what we were doing, neighbors. It’s our love language, okay?

I just had the ultimate married couple conversation

Fine, we're both nuts.

Fine, we’re both nuts.

Me: Did you find those packets of nuts I put in your car? I know they say “100 calorie packs,” but I just got them because they were packets of nuts.

Him: I know.

Me: I just wanted you to know that. I wasn’t thinking about how many calories you eat.

Him: I know. Thanks. I ate them.

Me: I know, I counted how many were left.

Him: I ate them angrily.

Me: Wha? But — but they’re nuts.

Him: So am I.

How to set the new style Clearblue fertility monitor ahead five days for Marquette NFP

As new Marquette NFP users, we decided to buy the new style fertility monitor, which came out in January of this year. We figured it would be the standard eventually, and that sooner or later there would be no tech support for the old style monitor. Plus, it’s cheaper than the old one — although the old one occasionally goes on sale at Rite Aid. 

clearblue monitor

the new one

In postpartum cycles before menses return, you’re supposed to create artificial cycles by setting the monitor ahead five days; but the new style monitor will only allow you to advance four days, which would give you an extra day of abstinence. Boo!

We read about a workaround, and my husband finally figured it out. I asked him to write up directions, and here is what he gave me.  And for the record, the last time I was crying in the bathroom, it was about how bad the house smells, so there.

***

So you’ve decided to get a fertility monitor. There are worse ways to spend money, and maybe you finally decided that crying in the bathroom is not the best way to sort out your fertility signs.

The new touchscreen Clear Blue Easy Monitor is meant to be used by couples to achieve pregnancy, and the company seems to be annoyed by people who use it for NFP. For example, it locks users out of being able to change the time more than one hour.

Right now, with the post-partum but not yet in cycles protocol, you can’t skip ahead to day five with the new monitor when you start a new 10 or 20-day cycle. I think this is another example of the Clear Blue people trying to discourage NFPers.

How to skip ahead to Day 5, sort of, with the new Touch Screen Clear Blue Easy monitor:

  1. If you have already set up a cycle, you will have to reprogram the monitor to do this. You just do. I even called the company. There is no way to change the time more than an hour once it is programmed without reprogramming it. When you reprogram the monitor, do it as close to noon in real time as you can. Also, because you are reprogramming, you need to get the data on you last cycle and put it on a paper chart or a chart app.
  2. From the home screen, touch the wheeley gears things and follow the directions to reprogram.
  3. Set the time on the monitor to 11:50 p.m.
  4. Start a new cycle. Set the date of the new cycle back as far as you can go, which should be four days.
  5. Set the time of the start of the new cycle to 12 a.m.
  6. Set the testing window for 6 p.m. to 12 a.m.
  7. Go into the bathroom and cry.

***

I also recommend not getting pet mice, if you’re trying to reduce the amount of bathroom crying.

Ever wonder what your husband does at work all day?

I bet your husband doesn’t make a recording of it, like mine does.

MY. HUSBAND. IS. BLOGGING.

Oh, the internets just got a little Fisherier.  My husband has been writing much longer than I have, and finally put together a blog featuring a bunch of the weekly columns he does for his paper.  Gosh, if only someone had thought of this sooner, like years ago, like his wife or something!  I’m crossing my fingers that he will continue to put up little vignettes like this one from the other night, in which we discover that our house is so weird and creepy that not even the guy who flipped his car in the snow after midnight wanted to hang out very long.

To give you a general idea of what kind of material he covers, here are his tags:

“good” ideas ArachnidAdam Babies bad ideas banned in Boston Birds Butch at the dump call 91 and then wait to see what happens Captain BananasChildren Children are kind of terrible Christmas Clean Costumes cut them Dead demons did the house blow up? Dirty Dog names don’t shop fartsFatherhood fine art frozen kids Fuck Maine Geeks Geese Gift givinggifts Gin Halloween Ham Hem! Hot I am a Jerk I am a terrible father ice pops I hate it Irene makes things better I sweat when I eat Jeans kids will kill me kittens Locked out of the car by the dog lollipops MaineMarriage mole Mother Motherfucking Maine Mouse My children are geeksNovember Patrick Swayze poop Poopy Pants popcorn Princess ScreamypantsRaccoons Sadness Self delusion Self help Shirts snacks Spiderman Summersweater of shame The environment is terrible this is not Throat ripping outtricked into not looking like a hobotubby Turkey sucks Witness Protection for Parents

Yeah, that sounds about right.Oh, man.  He’s blogging! He’s blogging!   Now I just need to harass him to include a photo of his chiseled, handsome face with the long eyelashes and the cleft chin, so I won’t have to keep using this one:PIC drunken Irishman sitting on gunpowder barrel