Instant Pot, Healthy Pasta, and More!

Linking up for Friday Favorites!! friday favorites flower look.jpeg

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I could probably post every week about how the Instant Pot is one of my favorite things in the world. This week I made a new favorite pasta dish!! Instant Pot Cajun Chicken Pasta. It takes about 10 minutes to get going. Then you can walk away for the next 15-20 minutes, do your laundry, bathe your kids, etc. When you come back it takes about 5 minutes to finish it off and you have an awesome one-pot meal. It is not too late to add the Instant Pot to your Christmas List!

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The pasta was super good, but my absolute favorite winter dish to make in the Instant Pot is my Beef Tips! It’s so warm and flavorful and makes plenty of sauce to go over rice!

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My Cajun Chicken Pasta might not be the healthiest meal in the world, but since my kids love pasta, I’m so thankful to have discovered a healthy pasta option! This Tolerant Organic Green Lentil Penne is SO good, and it only has one ingredient- green lentils! Literally, it is all made of green lentils. It has tons of protein and fiber, and I feel super good about feeding this to my kids with a little red sauce on top. It is pricier than regular pasta, but I don’t feel too bad about buying a box or two every week if it gets my kids to enjoy a vegetable + protein. I purchased my pasta at SAMs, but I’ve seen other brands of lentil pasta for sale at Kroger and Super Target.

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Last weekend my daughter was a flower girl. We ordered her dress from Light in the Box. I had never heard of this website, but the prices were great and the dress turned out to be stunning! This girl and these pictures are a huge favorite!!

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Finally, I wanted to share this sermon by Andy Stanley. His holiday series is called “Who Needs Christmas?” and my favorite sermon so far is called “The World.” It is such a beautiful reminder of all the history leading up to Jesus Christ’s coming. A reminder of our desperate need for a Messiah. And if you’ve turned on the news at all this week, you have probably seen the world’s desperate need for the love and peace of Christ. Listen to this sermon or download the North Point Church Podcast to check out this series and be blessed!

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Instant Pot Cajun Chicken Pasta

One pot. No colander. No chopping. SO tasty.

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I have to confess that my first few attempts with pasta in the Instant Pot were too mushy and overall not good. Pasta doesn’t take long to cook in the Instant Pot, so you’ve got to make sure your other ingredients are part-way cooked before adding the pasta. I’ve made this a couple times to test seasonings and cook times, and this time, I think it’s a winner. A few secret ingredients make this extra easy and tasty.

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A bag of frozen, chopped bell peppers and onions…

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And a bottle of Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning.

I wanted to give you a little picture walk through of some of this!

Ingredients

  • 1-2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 lbs of chicken tenderloins
  • 1 bag of chopped frozen bell peppers and onions (You can definitely use fresh if you want to! 1 onion and 2 peppers)
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic
  • 12 oz box of bow tie pasta (I used barilla)
  • 32 oz carton low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon creole seasoning
  • 3/4 cup of heavy cream or half-and-half! (Both work, the cream just makes it extra indulgent.)
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Set your Instant Pot to Sauté and wait until it says “Hot”. (Do not put the lid on when using Sauté.) Add your oil and butter. Melt and swirl together to coat the bottom of the pan.
  2. Cook your chicken breasts in the oil/butter mix for about 3 minutes each side to let them get some nice brown color on them. While the chicken is cooking, pour your frozen peppers and onions in a bowl and microwave for 2-3 minutes to help them thaw out. (This helps the whole dish cook more quickly in the pot.)
  3. When the chicken is cooked, stir in peppers and onions, broth, pasta, garlic, and creole seasoning. Mix together well. Turn off sauté and add the lid. Set to cook on manual for 5 minutes. **The amount of liquid in the pot causes it to take around 10 minutes to heat up. You can expect it to be ready in about 15 minutes.
  4. When cooking is done, depressurize and remove lid. There is some extra liquid here that you don’t need. As promised you do not need to drag out a colander. But, you do need to get your oven mits on, take that pot out and drain some of that liquid into the sink. (OR spoon a couple cups out of it with a big ladle.) You can definitely leave a some liquid in there, but it’s good to drain out a good bit of it.
  5. Set it back on Sauté. Add half-and-half or cream and parmesan cheese. Stir, let thicken for 2-3 minutes. At this point, it tastes like really flavorful chicken alfredo with peppers and onions. It is really good, but I want mine to have a spicy cajun flavor. So, I pull out a portion for the kids, and then add 1 more teaspoon of Creole Seasoning to the rest. You can season it to your own tastes. Turn pot off and serve! It is realllllly good with fresh tomatoes and chives on top.

 

A few stray observations:

*It will look like the pasta is not fully covered with liquid before you cook it, but it works out. Just stir everything together well, and you should be okay.

*Make sure you use chicken tenderloins or chicken breasts you’ve cut into small strips. The chicken will not fully cook if you use large whole chicken breasts.

*Use a 12 oz box of pasta, not 16 oz. This will alter your cook time, amount of cooking liquid, etc. When I’ve used a 16 oz box, it was too much for the pot, and caused it to shoot froth from the top when I depressurized. Learn from my mistakes. 🙂

 

Instant Pot Buffalo Chicken

Buffalo Chicken is the meal most requested by my husband. Thankfully, it is also the #1 easiest thing I make in the Instant Pot. I can hardly call it a recipe, because you really don’t even have to measure anything! I use this same method for bar-b-que chicken and salsa chicken, too! I hope you enjoy!

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Ingredients

  • 2-3 lbs of chicken breasts (I almost always do 3 lbs to have plenty of leftovers!)
  • 1/2 a bottle of Frank’s Red Hot Wing Sauce
  • a big shake of garlic powder (about a teaspoon if you must measure!)
  • a big shake of onion powder

*You can also use a packet of dry ranch powder, which is delicious, but the recipe is cleaner this way. 😉

Instructions

  1. Place chicken breasts in the Instant Pot.
  2. Pour wing sauce and seasonings over it. Stir.
  3. Put on lid. Seal. Hit “Poultry” and cook for the recommended 15 minutes. (It takes about 25 minutes when you add the time to heat up.)
  4. Depressurize, remove lid, and shred with two forks.

This is great served on baked potatoes or sandwich buns! Hawaiian rolls are especially good with the spicy chicken. Other great toppings are blue cheese or ranch, chives, pickles, etc! Sky’s the limit.

Instant Pot Roast

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This girl may look like sugar, but her antics are the reason I forgot to take a picture of the easiest, tastiest roast ever. I brought it to a holiday potluck this weekend fully intending to take a picture, but, this girl spent the entire time trying to escape the building. By the time I remembered, there was hardly anything left to show. I hope that means people liked it!

I have to give credit to my mom for this one; she always made roast in the slow cooker with these ingredients, and I’ve adapted it to the Instant Pot. This recipe takes longer than most of my pressure cooker recipes, but it is much quicker than an all-day roast.

When I first got the Instant Pot, I would try to make this roast and I ended up taking the lid on and off several times to get it cooked long enough to tenderize. My Instant Pot guide book said that you can cook a roast in 25-30 minutes. The roast is fully cooked after 30 minutes, but I think it takes closer to an hour to get it tender.

Ingredients

  • 2-3 lb chuck roast
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/3 cup of water
  • 1 packet of onion soup mix (I used Lipton)
  • 2-3 cups of baby carrots*
  • 8 red potatoes, cut in cubes (about 2 lbs of potatoes) *

Instructions

  1. Pour the cream of mushroom soup, water and onion soup mix packet into the pot. Stir.
  2. Add the roast and coat it in the mixture.
  3. Put the lid on, seal, and cook on Meat/Stew for 55 minutes.
  4. After 55 minutes, remove lid, turn off and add your vegetables.
  5. Put the lid back on, seal and cook on “manual” for 8 more minutes.
  6. Salt and Pepper to taste! (I only added pepper.) The meat should slice/shred pretty easily and be ready to serve.

*The vegetables here are optional! The roast alone is great on crusty bread or served over rice. But, if you are doing vegetables you really have to wait and do them at the end or they will be way too mushy.

If your roast is over 3 lbs, you may want to try 60 minutes.

Visualization Basics

Basics:

1. Everyone can visualize. Everyone experiences mental imagery when they dream at night. You visualize when you discuss and converse. You visualize as you plan.

2. Some people struggle to visualize when they read. Somewhere in the decoding process, the visualization breaks down. There are many reasons for this. You cannot assume that your students are visualizing when they read. 

3. I believe some students have visualization challenges. Some have major challenges, some minor. However, there are things teachers can do to increase children’s visualization skills.

A while back, I sat with a small group of students reading a poem called “Barnyard Ballerina.” The students read it silently, and then I asked them my favorite question; “What did you see as you were reading?” Jasmine chimed, “a girl named Gracie was in the barn dancing with her tutu.” The others nodded and agreed. Actually, the poem was not about a girl. It was about a cow named Gracie that imagined herself as a grand ballerina rather than a lowly farm animal.

Jasmine had visualized something, but it wasn’t the right thing. Had she visualized the “tail” and the “four hooves” mentioned in the poem, she may have understood it more accurately. This is a perfect example of visualization challenges.

How do we form images in our mind? When we see or hear a word a recognition unit called a logogen is activated in the mind, which helps us form an imagen (Sadoski, McTigue & Paivio 2012). Our mental representation of a word differs based on our background knowledge and memory associations.

Moreover, our images are connected to larger pictures in our brain (Sadoski, McTigue & Paivio 2012). If someone says “pizza” I don’t simply envision a pizza in isolation. I might envision an entire scene of the last time I had a pizza with my family. Research has shown that abstract words are more challenging to understand than concrete ones and are often processed in different parts of the brain (Giesbrecht. Camblin and Swaab 2004, Goodglass 1969). However, abstract words such as compassion can become connected to concrete images and scenes in our brains (Sadoski, McTigue & Paivio 2012). Compassion may be linked to mental images of a person offering aid to someone under hardship.

In thinking of our Barnyard Ballerina poem, I wonder what word or phrase triggered Jasmine to visualize “Gracie” as a little girl, and then miss lines later in the poem that described her as a cow. Was it the name Gracie? Any word or phrase can alter one’s mental image of something. And, the way we form these images is tied deeply to our background knowledge. Reading print and forming a mental image is a complex and personal process.

I’ve spent much time in guided reading groups like the one mentioned. I took note of students who could not verbalize where their comprehension broke down, because they couldn’t see the story. What I noticed across the board is that almost every student who experienced difficulties with comprehension had major struggles visualizing. They simply could not see the story. As time went on, I began to refer to their struggles as a “failure to visualize.” While this is not a formal term, it seemed to fit the challenges my colleagues and I witnessed. I realized this was a pretty harsh term, so I often try to refer to it as “visualization challenges.” Visualization challenges involves struggling to form fluid images in the mind when reading text.

Thank you for enduring these basics! This will help launch us into a discussion about WHY many students have challenges with visualization. Tune in for more. 🙂

 

***All student names have been changed to protect their privacy.

Instant Pot Chicken Fajitas

 

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This recipe can be used for fajitas, burritos, quesadillas, etc. I have a few variations of “salsa chicken” that I like to make, (and will share soon!) but I enjoy that this one is different and full of garlic and lime flavor! This recipe makes a ton, so you can have leftovers or freeze half.

Ingredients 

  • 3 lbs of chicken breasts
  • 2 bell peppers, cut in strips
  • 1 large onion or two small onions, cut in strips
  • 1-2 finely diced jalapeño peppers
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • juice of 1 large lime
  • 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin

*more salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Place chicken breasts, peppers and onions in the pressure cooker.
  2. Mix all other ingredients in a small bowl and pour over the chicken and vegetables to coat.
  3. Put the lid on and seal. Cook on “Poultry” for 17 minutes.
  4. When finished, slice the chicken and serve! Salt and pepper to taste. I love to wrap this in corn tortillas and add fresh tomatoes and more lime juice.

**Alternate cooking method: This cook time makes for very very tender vegetables. I’m not too pick about super soft peppers in my quesadillas or fajitas. But, if you like more crisp vegetables, cook the chicken for 12 minutes, take off the lid and add your vegetables, then cook for 5 more minutes.

**Also, this cook time is longer because it makes 3 lbs of chicken. You can try this with less and take the cook time down a couple minutes per pound.

This makes a really great quesadilla, too!

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