Vegan Loaded Baked Potato Bowls Vegan Loaded Baked Potato Bowls (link to recipe below) are just one option for putting your Instant Pot to use. (Photo: Becky Striepe/Glue and Glitter)

Have you heard about the Instant Pot? Recipes that make use of this small kitchen appliance keep popping up in my Facebook feed, particularly from recipe developer Becky Striepe, the voice behind the Glue and Glitter website. It was her praise for this electric pressure cooker that got my attention, so I asked her a few questions about this tool, which seems to be a smart, time-saving machine to have in the kitchen.

MNN: What does the instant pot do and why is it so great?

Becky Striepe: This is my first pressure cooker, but what I like about the Instant Pot or IP is that it's electric (not stovetop), and it's easy to use. Pressure cookers have always intimidated me, but the IP was super simple. Just dial in your setting and time, and walk away. It's also a multi-pot, meaning that it has other functions. It slow cooks, sautes, and makes yogurt, too. I make soy yogurt in mine all the time!

What kinds of things can you do with it?

instant-potYou can use it to make anything you'd make in any other pressure cooker or slow cooker, and there's the yogurt function that I mentioned above. I use it most to steam veggies quickly and to cook grains. I thought I'd use it to make beans from scratch a lot, but my kid is on a beans strike, so I haven't been making them much.

What would you use it to make for a weekend when you're stuck inside?

Tamales! They would be a nice project, and I bet they'd steam up super quickly in the IP.

Has it made making any of your 3-year-old son's foods easier to make?

It definitely has. He loves helping me with the IP, and he actually learned how to count from setting the timer on the pot for me. He is obsessed with the yogurt I make in there, and I also use it to make the rice for sushi bowls. (I use not-spicy mayo for his, and lately we've been adding tofu.) He would eat a sushi bowl every day, if I let him. His other favorite IP recipe is my mashed potatoes. I use the IP to steam the potatoes (it's even faster than the microwave, if you're doing more than two potatoes), then mash them as usual with Earth Balance and soy milk.

Anything else about it you think we should know?

The book with cooking times that comes with the IP is not the best. My grains were coming out soupy when I followed those directions. I really like Jill Nussinow's book "Vegan Under Pressure." It includes cooking charts for grains, beans and veggies that have worked much better than the instructions that came with the pot. JL Fields also has a great cookbook for the IP: "Vegan Pressure Cooking."

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It sounds like the Instant Pot would be a great addition to any kitchen, especially in these upcoming months when it will be cold and hot, comforting foods are needed — sometimes quickly after coming in from playing. Here are some recipes that would be perfect to create a cozy feeling on weekends (or weekdays).

  1. Vegan Loaded Baked Potato Bowl: This is one of Striepe's recipes. She uses the IP to cook the potatoes and uses them in a diced potato bowl with some of the usual toppings you'd find on a baked potato. By dicing the potatoes, you'll get a better potato-to-topping ratio.
  2. Instant Pot Apple Steel Cut Oats: Steel cut oats are so nutritious and satisfying, but they usually take a long time to cook. In the IP, that time is cut drastically. This recipe makes two servings, is vegan, and it's gluten-free.
  3. Instant Pot Whole "Rotisserie" Chicken: A whole chicken cooked in about 45 minutes — sounds crazy, doesn't it? That's what pressure cooking does, though, it cooks everything quicker. In this recipe, you crisp the top skin of the bird before flipping it over, closing the lid and allowing the IP to do its thing.
  4. Instant Pot Parmesan Risotto: I'm fond of any no-stir risotto method and usually make mine in the oven, but using the IP makes it an even simpler process.
  5. Instant Pot French Dip Sandwiches: French Dip is so satisfying on a cold night. This recipe uses the IP to brown the beef and then onions are sautéed right inside the pot. The beef is put back in with liquids and the beef comes out "fall apart fork tender."
  6. Instant Pot American Beef Stew: All the stew classics — beef, carrots, onions, peas and more — sautéed and cooked all in the IP.
  7. Pressure Cooker Split Pea Soup: A vegan version, instead of a ham-based version, of this classic cold-weather soup.
  8. Veggie Magic Soup: Canned beans, canned tomatoes and a ton of healthy veggies go into this Instant Pot soup.
  9. Chicken Noodle Soup: The best part about doing anything with noodles in the IP is that you don't have to cook the noodles first, which makes for less mess in the kitchen!
  10. Amazing 7 Minute Mac & Cheese: Just what the kids want when coming in from the cold.

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Why the Instant Pot is great for a cozy weekend (plus recipes)
The electric pressure cooker is taking home cooks by storm, and it's good for creating hot meals quickly on a cold day.