Food Recipes Tried

Dinner :: Instant Pot Cheeseburger Macaroni

Instant Pot Cheeseburger Macaroni

So, as you’ll see as you read a lot of my stuff, I have a real problem making a recipe exactly as written.

It’s not because I think I know better. Well, sometimes it is. But usually it’s because I was out of an ingredient and felt another would be a suitable replacement. That was what happened today.

I made the Instant Pot Cheeseburger Macaroni from the blog, Meatloaf and Melodrama (great name).

See the original recipe

Here are the changes I made:

  • Cooking spray instead of olive oil
  • Instead of sea salt I used seasoned salt because my sea salt was unopened.
  • I didn’t have dried minced onions, but I had dried minced shallots.
  • I didn’t have cream so I used whole milk with about a teaspoon of flour whisked in.
  • I didn’t have cheddar (well I did but it was moldy) so I just used a full block of Colby Jack.
  • Also after it cooking for the 4 minutes I felt it too bland. So I added some Worcestershire, and a teensy bit of liquid smoke.
  • I also felt it was too plain looking, so I added some chopped up roasted red peppers and they were really good.
Instant Pot Cheeseburger Macaroni
Instant Pot Cheeseburger Macaroni

OK so I made some very small changes, but it was good!! We both ate two bowls.
I will keep this one in my arsenal because I almost always have these ingredients on hand (or at least my substitutions) so it’s a quick and easy throw together when you’re out of ideas.

Instant Pot Cheeseburger Macaroni Close up

Close up! Note: the turkey and the macaroni were from Imperfect Foods. 

Use my link and get $10 off your first box. Full disclosure, I get $10 too.

Recipes Mine

Recipe :: Chili

Yesterday for some reason I was cold all day! I kept wrapping myself in blankets, sipping tea, snuggling puppies and just couldn’t get warm. This is unlike me, usually I am sweltering when others are complaining about it being cold. Thank goodness I don’t work in an office with other people anymore.

Anyway, 5pm hit and I realized I didn’t have a dinner plan. But I almost always have everything for Chili on hand, so I decided to go that route. I also decided to try it in the Instant Pot since I’d waited too long to start dinner.
It worked very well!! Here’s the recipe:

Red Chili

Amy’s Red Chili

1 pound extra lean ground beef (or turkey, or vegetarian alternative)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder (at least)
1 teaspoon dried oregano (at least)
4 ounce can green (mild) chilis, diced
2 tablespoons canned jalapeno (or 1 whole pepper fresh, diced)
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves Garlic, chopped
28 ounces tomatoes, canned
8 ounces tomato sauce
2 cups fat-free beef broth
½ teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional, but so nice)
3 Whole Chipotle Chile Canned In Adobo + 2 Tablespoons Adobo Sauce (optional)
dash of ground cloves and any other spices you might want to add (more of the above, plus garlic powder, chipotle powder, etc.)
½ bell pepper (any color), chopped
15 ounces kidney beans, canned, undrained
15 Ounces Black Beans, Canned, undrained

Stovetop/Slow Cooker:
Heat a large pot to medium high and spray with cooking spray. When hot add ground beef with a little of the salt, oregano, chili powder and cumin. Break the meat apart with the spoon and cook until no longer pink. When almost done, add onions and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes or so.
If you want to use the slow cooker, at this point transfer the cooked meat and spices into that vessel and continue using the slow cooker.
Add tomatoes, broth, other seasonings (including espresso powder) and tomato sauce.

Stovetop; Simmer for 1 hour (this is just to blend flavor–if not enough time skip this). Taste for seasoning, adding more if need be. I usually find I need to add a little salt here.
Slow cooker; set on low for 4 hours or more, longer the better as long as it doesn’t get too thick. Check it every hour if you can.

Add the two cans of beans (you can drain if you want, but I like that the “sauce” has extra nutrients and makes the chili a little thicker) and bell peppers and simmer for 15 minutes.

Red Chili

Instant Pot:
Set the Instant Pot on sauté mode and spray with cooking spray. When hot add ground beef with a little of the salt, oregano, chili powder and cumin. Break the meat apart with the spoon and cook until no longer pink. When almost done, add onions and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes or so. Turn off the pot (hit cancel).

Add tomatoes, broth, other seasonings (including espresso powder) and tomato sauce. Put the lid on and cook on high pressure for 15 minutes (you can certainly go longer, this is to develop flavor). Quick release. Taste for seasoning, adding more if need be. I usually find I need to add a little salt here.

Turn off the pot (hit cancel). Then put it back in sauté mode. You are going to want to simmer it for a bit to warm up the beans and peppers. Add the two cans of beans (you can drain if you want, but I like that the “sauce” has extra nutrients and makes the chili a little thicker) and bell peppers and simmer for 15 minutes.

Serve with shredded cheddar or taco cheese, sour cream and green onions, cilantro, saltines, corn chips, whatever you like on chili!

This time I did not use the chipotle in adobo because I didn’t feel like opening a whole can to use so little. So I just used chipotle powder. It was maybe not as “deep” of a flavor, but still delicious. I’m sure it will be even better today for lunch!

Red Chili

I hope you try it! Let me know how it goes!

Affiliate links:

Here’s the instant pot I have:

The beans, ground beef, onions, garlic, and peppers were all from Imperfect Foods


Food Meal kits

Dinner :: Zucchini & ’Shroom Hibachi Bowls

I made the Zucchini & ’Shroom Hibachi Bowls with Scallion Rice & Spicy Special Sauce from EveryPlate for Meatless Monday!

Ingredients for meal
Ingredients for the meal

Not to mislead you with that exclamation point, It was ‘meh’. This had almost no flavor. Nowhere near worth the 840 calories it supposedly has. Where are all those calories? This was boring boring boring. The carrot mixture had no flavor despite having 3 packets of soy sauce. It needed something else, desperately. Garlic? 5-spice? Sesame oil? Anything!

The mushrooms were good, but that’s likely due to the pat of butter that you put on them after they’ve cooked. I even added the leftover fry seasoning to the rice before plating, and added some salt. But still, it was bland.

Oh and it uses three pans so clean up was a pain too. Also a little miffed that I have to provide so much of my own ingredients. How hard would it have been to include a packet of ketchup, pack of sugar, a couple of pats of butter, and 2 eggs?  We all expect to provide our own oil, salt and pepper, but the other stuff?

Zucchini & ’Shroom Hibachi Bowls
Zucchini & ’Shroom Hibachi Bowls

I will not make this one again, nor would I recommend ordering it. All the time I was eating it I was thinking, ‘well at least it’s healthy’. It’s not.

I will leave on a positive note…the mayo sauce was good. It was mayo, sriracha, ketchup, sugar (I only used a tiny bit–there’s sugar in ketchup already), and this mysterious “fry seasoning” (it tasted a little like Cajun spice).

At least it was pretty!

Zucchini & ’Shroom Hibachi Bowls
Zucchini & ’Shroom Hibachi Bowls

Every Plate – honestly, they have some really great meals! So if you want to give it a try use my link for a free box.

Food Recipes Tried Reviews

Lunch :: Lasagna Soup

Lasagna Soup

Lasagna Soup
Lasagna Soup with chicken sausage

I just felt I had to make sure everyone knew about the Lasagna Soup from Skinnytaste. Now, Gina over at Skinnytaste makes a ton of amazing dishes and I’ve tried a lot of them. But this one is my favorite and it’s very popular over on the Skinnytaste Facebook group as well.

Here’s the original recipe.

If you know me, you know it’s very hard for me to follow a recipe to the letter. I usually make changes either out of necessity, or taste. This one I follow pretty well, but since there are variables within, it’s different each time. For example, she calls for 2 cups of marinara sauce. The taste will vary greatly depending on what sauce you use. I like Classico’s 4 cheese.

Also it calls for uncooked Italian Chicken Sausage. Well, I’ve never been able to find Italian seasoned chicken sausage, so I’ve used something else each time. The first time I used a Caprese Flavored Chicken Sausage (from Gilbert’s) but it was already cooked. Tasted fantastic though.

Here’s the sausage I used:

Gilbert's Chicken Sausage
Gilbert’s Chicken Sausage

The last time I made this I used ground beef and just added Italian Seasoning to it (as well as some ground fennel). It was not as good. So I’d stick with the sausage, even if you can only find it cooked. Just chop it up small.

And whatever you do, do NOT skip the ricotta. Even if you think you’re not a fan. It makes the soup. The soup is good without it, but it’s AMAZEBALLS with it! It’s what makes it taste like lasagna.

Whenever someone asks for a good soup recipe (especially one for the Instant Pot) I recommend this one.

Lasagna Soup
Lasagna Soup made with ground beef.

I hope you will try this one! If you do, or if you have already, let me know in the comments!

Food Meal kits Reviews

Dinner :: Beef Banh Mi Bowls

Tonight I made the Beef Banh Mi Bowls from EveryPlate. EveryPlate is the budget-conscious little sister of Hello Fresh. The meals are usually pretty good, and far less expensive than any other meal kit that I have tried.

Part of why it is so inexpensive is that they don’t give you all the ingredients. In an upcoming meal I have, there are 7 ingredients listed that you ‘must have on hand’. I totally get providing my own salt, pepper and oil. But this one needed me to have on hand: Salt, Pepper, Ketchup, Butter, Sugar, Vegetable Oil and eggs.

But that’s another meal that I’ll be making for lunch next week. This one provided everything but salt, pepper, oil, butter and sugar(which I barely even used).
Ingredients for Banh Mi Bowl
This is the second time I’ve made this and I really wish I’d read my notes on time #1 because there I noted there was much too much carrot. Well, since I *didn’t* read that, there was this time too! Funny, how that works.

This is one of the best ones from EveryPlate in my opinion. I’ve never had anything terrible from there, but certainly there have been ones that were just unremarkable. This one is pretty good though, since I’ve ordered it twice!

I did not use the full amount of sugar as I’m trying to limit that, and I don’t like sweetness in savory dishes (though I love salt in sweet dishes. I’m weird).

Here’s the finished product. This time I served them with pot stickers (frozen) that I steamed in the Instant Pot.

Beef Banh Mi Bowl

I should have used larger bowls like I did the first time.

Beef Banh Mi Bowl

Try EveryPlate here.


Breakfast :: Poached Eggs in the Instant Pot

This morning I made poached eggs in the Instant Pot and it sorta worked…

Instant Pot Poached Eggs
Silicone egg bites tray

Method: I cooked them for 4 minutes on high pressure, quick release. Then I turned off the pot, put the lid on and let them sit for about another 3 minutes because I was getting the rice ready.

Result: They stuck even though I had a ton of spray on the egg bite tray.
One was just right, the other egg had gooby whites.

Eggs on Rice

They also are a weird shape, but this is much easier than dealing with boiling water, swirling, the egg white flying all over and the clean up of doing in the old fashioned way.

Poached Eggs on Rice
Finished product served on leftover Chinese restaurant pork fried rice and sprinkled with salt, pepper and togarashi.

This is the recipe that I used as a guide:

Instant Pot Poached Eggs from Tidbits

This is similar to the set I bought. Apparently the one I got is no longer available.

NOTE If you are using an Adblocker, you’ll need to pause it for this site, so you can see the albums. It considers these links to be ads. They’re just links to products, but it is through an affiliate program.

Update, I tried this again today (November 14, 2020) and still put them on high for 4 minutes, but this time I used the top of the egg tray. It appeared that they were still super wet in the middle and too goopy so I put them in for another minute and that resulted in basically hard boiled. So I guess I’d leave the top off, or go less time. I only had two eggs in the tray and the recipe says less time for more eggs. So if doing a full tray, 4 minutes would be too long.

egg on avocado toast

Also my phone likes to think it knows better when I’m taking pictures of food and does a weird setting that makes most of the photo blurry. If I forget to turn this off, the photo is wonky. Sorry. Hey, the pepper looks great!


Meal kits

Dinner :: Hot Italian Pork Sausage & Brussels Sprouts with Bucatini Pasta

Dinner tonight was the Hot Italian Pork Sausage & Brussels Sprouts with Bucatini Pasta from Blue Apron.

Hot Italian Pork Sausage Pasta

It was delicious! I forgot to add back in some of the pasta sauce and it did dry out, so I should have done that step. But the flavor was great. It was NOT hot at all however. So when remaking this one,  pick a really hot sausage.

Hot Italian Pork Sausage Pasta

If you’re getting this from Blue Apron, add some chili flakes if you want spicy.

It was super easy and minimal clean up too.

The Recipe on Blue Apron: Hot Italian Pork Sausage & Brussels Sprouts with Bucatini Pasta

Hot Italian Pork Sausage Pasta


Recipes Tried

Dinner :: Indian Coconut Butter Cauliflower

I made this amazing dish back in March 2020, when we thought this virus nonsense would last 6 months, tops. Oh, how silly we were. (note I don’t mean thought the virus *was* nonsense, we all know it’s real and deadly).

Indian Cauliflower Curry and Naan

I made it with the naan, both of these recipes are from Half-Baked Harvest.

Well it was delicious and easy. Mine isn’t as pretty as hers, but hot damn, it was good.

The naan, I didn’t roll out the dough so it was too puffy but so delicious. I’d had a couple of wines and no longer cared. If you make this, be sure to roll out the dough thinner than you think you need to.

The curry was to die for. But I used the last can of coconut milk in the house and that gave me anxiety. It was at a time when we weren’t sure where our next can of coconut milk was coming from.

Next day, for the leftovers, I added some more milk and blended it into a soup. So yummy!!!

Indian Coconut Butter Cauliflower Recipe from Half-Baked Harvest

Naan bread from Half-Baked Harvest


Shaker and Spoon Box 1, cocktails 2 and 3

We made the last two drinks from our first Shaker and Spoon box, Brush of the Bush and El Palenque.
el palenque
El Palenque
El Palenque uses pineapple and ginger beer. This one was good, but a little too sweet for me. Almost syrupy. I happily drank one, but wouldn’t want more than one per sitting.

Next up…
Brush of the Bush
Brush of the Bush uses sage-agave syrup, cherry bitters and a spray of white sage. This one was sort of like an Old Fashioned. Also a bit syrupy but since it’s more of a sipper, it was a little easier to drink. It was delicious!

Of the three drinks for this box, my favorite was the Abstract Distraction. It was light and smooth and refreshing. I’d make this one again in a heartbeat.
I look forward to future boxes!

Get your own here: Shaker and Spoon

Meal kits

Dinner :: Mongolian Beef and Noodles

Tonight I made the Mongolian Beef & Noodles from Blue Apron.

meal kit prep

This was…fine. I just had such high hopes. This sounded so good and it was just bland. I ended up adding salt, pepper and soy sauce to the  dish while eating it, and it still just tasted like cornstarch. It was almost gummy.

So I would probably not order this kit again, but I may make it again. I would just use way less cornstarch and add some more flavoring to the meat before cooking. Maybe that would help.

Anyway, I made a short video if you want to see it.

But here’s the end result.

Mongolian Beef Dish