Mashed Potatoes in 8 Minutes, Beef Stew in 35

Back in March I began a new career in wine sales. I love my job but find one of the biggest challenges is getting a good meal together if I haven’t planned ahead. But last Christmas I bought my husband an electric programmable pressure cooker, and it’s been a life-saver. I am using it all the time.

One thing about my job is the inconsistency in my schedule. I am driving all over lower Fairfield County and at the mercy of I95 and Merritt Parkway traffic, which seems to get worse each week. I sometimes have shorter days where I’ll get home at a reasonable time, and then at the end of each month, I’m working well into the late evening. So, planning dinner is a challenge, as I’m not always certain when I’ll get home and not always sure if my husband will be home with food ready or ready to cook.

I have found that I can still get dinner on the table in under 45 minutes if I use the pressure cooker, but more often can get it done in 20 minutes if it’s not elaborate or needing extra time to cook. Beef stew, like our family recipe of “Eintopf” which normally takes at least 3 hours to cook, can been cooked from start to finish in around 45-50 minutes– including the peeling of potatoes, cutting of onions and browning of beef.  My Instant Pot cooks the stew in 35 minutes. Now, if I had planned I could also use the slow cooker (crockpot) to make it, but this is for when I haven’t planned, which is more often than not.  

How about cooking potatoes in 7-8 minutes to mash? For those nights when I can make dinner in 20 minutes (because we’ve got a practice, scout meeting, etc and that’s all the time I have), it’s a game-changer.  And I just learnt that I can make baked potatoes using it in 25 minutes. 
Pressure Cooker Mashed Potatoes
4-5 medium to large Russet potatoes
1/4 cup milk
1/3 stick of butter
salt and pepper to taste

Peel and cut potatoes in half or quarters (not too small), add to pressure cooker and cover with cold water. Set Manual time to 8 minutes Pressure. When done and steam/pressure is released, drain potatoes and add milk, butter, salt and pepper. Mash until you’ve got consistency you like. (You can add more milk if you need.)

We made chicken curry last week in 10 minutes… using chicken thighs. All we had to do was add the cut up chicken thighs to a good-quality jarred sauce with a little extra water (the water will evaporate). The entire meal took 15 minutes– the time it took to cook the rice.


I am not getting paid to endorse any product, I just love this! And I’m sure it’ll make a great gift for the busy person. 

A little sneakiness when you need it.

As I often say, I like my vegetables, fruits and other healthful foods to be up front, not snuck into things.  But I’ve also mentioned that my youngest has become very picky of late.  So, I’m making sure he gets some of his favorite vegetables daily (and out in the open, so to say) but every once in a while I also add some that he’s not too fond of through a different method.  Since he won’t eat soup besides our family recipe “eintopf” and potato leek right now, that delivery means is mostly out.  But smoothies and baking are two ways that are in. 

I tend to give the kids smoothies a couple of times a week.  But he wasn’t in the mood for one in the past few days.  No soups.  Unbelievably I got him to eat a “salad” of raw cabbage.  He tries to avoid it cooked and won’t eat cole slaw, so I was very pleased with that.  But I was in the mood to bake and wanted to try a pumpkin bread.  He loves the Trader Joe’s mix, but it has so much sugar in it and I wanted to add more vegetables. 

So I came up with this recipe:

Pumpkin Zucchini Carrot Bread (or Muffins)
2 cups AP flour
1 cup spelt flour
1 tsp baking soda
1½ tsp baking powder
1 cup brown sugar
¼ cup sugar
½ tsp salt
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (cinnamon, ginger, lemon peel, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom)
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 medium zucchini, grated
1-2 carrots, grated
1 cup pumpkin puree
½ cup neutral oil (sunflower, canola, grapeseed)
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Mix dry ingredients together and set aside.  In a blender, puree the grated zucchini and carrots together with milk and eggs.  Add pumpkin and oil to wet mixture and blend until well mixed.  Add vanilla then add wet ingredients to flour mixture and fold in until mixed but don’t overwork.

Pour into greased bread tin (I put parchment paper on bottom too).  Sprinkle a little sugar on top. Bake for about 30-40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean from center.  For muffins they’ll take about 15-20 minutes. 

I made one bread and 6 muffins (also made 1½ doz banana muffins).

The bread was very moist and delicious, though I think it can be better somehow.  The kids liked the muffins and bread. Best of all: my youngest son ate it. 

Eintopf! Or I found something my middle one loves!

Oh it’s such a wonderful sound to hear yippees and exclamations of delight from my middle son when he sees his dinner.  Those of you who’ve read my blog regularly would know that this is a rare occurrence, it’s often the opposite reaction.  But yesterday I made a dinner that he’d requested the week before, and one that I never knew he liked that much until last night when he saw the bowl of steaming stew.  I made a family recipe, one that my mother learned while living in Switzerland from my German father’s mother.  We’ve always called it Eintopf, which means “one pot” and my Oma also called it “Wirsingkohl” for the type of cabbage (Savoy) that is in it. To me it is the ultimate comfort food, to my husband it took him a few times to like it. 

My kids love it.  I think what food you grow up with can influence you later on in life.  Some people who say their mother (or father) was a terrible cook but remember fondly a dish she made and can get nostalgic about it even if it wasn’t the best they’ve ever had— they may still prefer it done the way Mom made it. 

For instance, I like marmite and vegemite, I grew up eating it from a young age, whereas most American’s would think the savory spread gross.  My kids also like marmite (preferred over vegemite) because I’ve been giving it to them since they were able to eat toast.  I think this is true with many foods especially vegetables but it’s not necessarily a done deal.  My husband too likes marmite as did my father, both of whom didn’t eat it until they were adults.  I guess I’m trying to say that it’s never to late to try to introduce new foods.  Our tastes can change and we may be more open to new foods at various times and under particular circumstances.  I think not forcing the issue helps get children, even older ones, to try new things.  Again, cook what you know (healthy things, please), introduce family recipes, things you’ve enjoyed or something with a story— and eat with them.  Show them.  Don’t force it and you may be surprised when the pickiest one, shouts with joy over something you’ve made. 

Eintopf (One Pot Beef Stew)

·        1-2 lbs stew beef (chuck), trimmed and cut into cubes

·        1 large onion

·        1 large Savoy cabbage, rinsed and shredded

·        5 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-2 inch pieces

·        2 Tbsp caraway seeds

·        2 cups beef stock (or beef bouillon)

·        salt and pepper to taste

·        1 cup flour

·        3 Tbsp olive oil

·        2 bay leaves

My mother always made this in a pressure cooker, but I make mine in a slow cooker.  Both need to sauté onions and brown the beef first, but once that’s done just add everything to slow cooker.  Pressure cooker and stove is cooked in stages.

In a large bowl, season flour with salt and pepper.  Add beef and coat all sides then set aside.  In sauté pan, cook onion in 1 Tbsp olive oil then add to slow cooker.  Brown floured meat in 1 Tbsp olive oil- might need to do in lots of 2 or 3 so as to not overcrowd the pan.  Once browned on all sides, add to slow cooker. Add stock, caraway seeds, potatoes then cabbage on top (cabbage doesn’t need to be in liquid).  Salt and pepper to taste.  Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6-8.  Meet should be tender and fall apart with a fork.  Serve in bowls with a spoon.

Honestly it is one of our family favorites.  Eyes light up and smiles abound when this is served.  I hope you all have one dish that elicits such a response.  It makes me happy that I can make them something that is healthy and they all like.