One item being raved about this past holiday season has made its way to my kitchen. I’m excited to tell you about the Instapot! What’s mainly advertised as a pressure cooker, is really a jack-of-all-trades.

What Can the Instapot Pot Do?

  • pressure cook
  • slow cook
  • cook rice/porridge
  • make yogurt
  • make cake
  • cook hard-boiled eggs
  • sauté/sear
  • steam (veggies and more)
  • warm meals
  • sterilize utensils

How Long Does the Instapot Take to Cook Meat?

The Instapot is a great tool for quick, after-work meals. Not only can you throw frozen meat into it, but the meat cooks tender, juicy, and quickly. Here are the average cook times for popular meat options.

  • Beef: 20 to 75 minutes.
  • Chicken: 8 to 25 minutes.
  • Pork: 20 to 60 minutes.
  • Turkey: 15 to 30 minutes.

Nancy’s First Instapot Recipes

Of all the features offered with the Instapot, my personal favorite is the pressure cooker. Meals that could take up to 12 hours, like chicken bone broth, will only take two with the Instapot. I’ve experimented with some new recipes and they came out terrific. Join me in trying these new Instapot recipes: Pork Chops with Port Wine Glazed Cherries & Risotto and Tender-Tasty Beef Brisket.

Pork Chops with Port Wine Glazed Cherries & Risotto

This is a simple yet flavorful and tender pork dish. The risotto was made with a cast iron pan, but it is feasible to cook in the Instapot. Estimate 25 minutes for cook time.


  • 4 pork chops
  • 2 tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
  • 2 tsp. chopped shallots
  • 1 ½ cup pitted cherries
  • 2 ounces unsweetened cherry juice



  1. Season the pork chops with salt and pepper.
  2. Sauté pork in the Instapot.
  3. Add 2 tablespoons of EVOO on both sides of the pork.
  4. Add in 2 teaspoons of chopped shallots and sauté with pork.
  5. Remove pork from Instapot and deglaze the pot with port wine and balsamic vinegar.
  6. Add 1 ½ cups of pitted cherries and cook until soft.
  7. Add 2 ounces of unsweetened cherry juice.
  8. Cook for 25 minutes and let the pressure release naturally.

Tender-Tasty Beef Brisket

First, cover the brisket in a seasoning blend (Chuck’s Pork and Beef Seasoning is a  recipe that I like to use). Once the brisket is covered in rub, you can leave it covered in the fridge overnight.

Chuck’s Pork and Beef Seasoning

¼ cup of each of the following:

  • black pepper
  • white Pepper
  • granulated garlic
  • granulated onion
  • smoked paprika
  • chili powder
  • ancho chili powder
  • salt
  • lastly, 1 tsp. of cayenne pepper


Brisket Sauce (make in bowl)

  • ½ cup of water
  • 4 tbs. tomato paste
  • 2 tbs. Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 tbs. Liquid Smoke


  1. Slice 2 cups of onions and add them to the Instapot.
  2. Place beef on top of onions, and pour the Brisket Sauce over the beef.
  3. Cook for 75 minutes, let the pressure release naturally.
  4. Once the beef is cooked, remove the beef and mix everything in the pot together—here’s your sauce.
  5. Add 1 tbs. of mustard and a cornstarch slurry to thicken the sauce.

If you’d like to try some other recipes of mine, check out our last blog article Spice Up Your Kitchen in 2018!–there are some great Mediterranean flavors to try!





About sixteen years ago, I did a Festival of Nations event and served meatballs from thirty different countries. Events like these remind me and others of the diversity of flavors available to us and the impact that a single ingredient can have on a dish. It’s one of the reasons I love what I do so much.

As we push toward the New Year, I thought it would be fun to give some thought to new flavors that have become quite popular. Globalization has made it possible for spices of the world to travel, and for us foodies to experience other countries right in our own backyards. I mean, less than a century ago, we couldn’t even purchase cashews, but now we can’t go into a grocery store without noticing them. Access to eclectic flavors is really a privilege. As we step into another year of diverse and delicious cuisine, I plan to share some recipes that I find that fit into this expansive theme.

Some flavors I’ve been particularly drawn to are those of the Middle East and Northern Africa, variations of Mediterranean, really. Two recipes I have become very familiar with are the vibrant Maghrebian Harissa and the herb-loving Za’atar. Please join my palate and me in trying these out-of-this-world condiments and spices.

Move over Sriracha! Harissa is here.

This is a vibrantly sweet, smoky, and spicy condiment that transforms into a hot, garlicky and complex chili paste. The basic recipe calls for hot peppers, garlic, salt, and lots of olive oil, but you can also add some coriander, caraway seeds, and maybe cumin and dried mint depending on your preference.

Homemade Harissa

Makes 1 cup


  • 5 medium dried red chili peppers, seeded and stems removed (I use a mix of dried guajillo or Fresno chilies, dried chipotle peppers, and dried chili de arbol. Sometimes I add 1 habanero pepper if I want to really spice it up!).
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • ½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon of caraway seeds
  • ½ teaspoon of dried mint
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste


  1. Soak the chili peppers in the vinegar for 30 to 45 minutes, until soft. Combine chilies, vinegar, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, and olive oil in a food processor and process until smooth.
  2. Lightly toast the coriander, caraway, and cumin seeds in a frying pan. Then grind them using a mortar and pestle. Add these ground spices to the food processor along with the pepper, mint, salt, and tomato paste. Process until smooth, drizzle in extra olive oil if the mixture seems too thick. Season to taste with additional kosher salt.
  3. This will keep up to three weeks in your refrigerator. It can be used on eggs, lamb, beef, fish, chicken, and turkey. You can also use it with grains, pasta, and potatoes.  Its origin is in North Africa and has been added to curries and stews.


Za’atar is a wonderful spice mixture that can improve any dish— it brings out flavors similar to salt. Like most regional seasoning mixtures, there are literally hundreds of versions, but this is mine. These flavors work really well in a number of dishes, but especially with grilled meats, fish, chicken, rice, potatoes, and all sorts of other vegetables. I also use za’atar as an oil-based dip for flatbread!

Simple Roasted Za’atar Chicken

Serves 4


  • 4 chicken breasts with skin on, previously brined
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 4 teaspoons of sumac
  • 4 teaspoons of za’atar seasoning* (see below)
  • 4 teaspoons of lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons of sweet paprika
  • 2 teaspoons of cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons of dried chili flakes


  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F Place the chicken on a sheet pan.
  2. Mix all the other ingredients together and season to taste—add more salt or lemon as needed. Rub the mixture under the skin and all over the skin and place the squeezed lemon halves on the tray.
  3. Bake for 40-60 minutes at 165°F (or longer depending on the size of the chicken). Make sure to check periodically to ensure the chicken doesn’t overcook.

* Za’atar Seasoning


  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, minced
  • 2 tablespoonssesame seeds, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons marjoram
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons ground sumac
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt

In an effort to maintain healthy eating habits throughout the holidays, I have decided to substitute my daily breakfast for a detox smoothie. My goal with this detox is to help my body rid toxins and maintain a healthy balance of energy and digestion throughout all the upcoming holiday gatherings. I plan to start my morning detox on Thanksgiving and go straight into the New Year– I invite you all to join me!

Nancy’s Detox Smoothie

Serves 2


  • 1 whole pear; ends cut off
  • 1 whole apple cored, but not peeled
  • 1 whole lemon, peeled
  • 1 peeled knob of ginger
  • 1 package of stevia
  • 1 TBS flax seeds
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup ice cubes


Combine all ingredients into a heavy duty blender and mix. I recommend drinking immediately while still cold and all ingredients are fresh.

With this detox regimen, I anticipate a guilt-free attitude when I indulge in all the delicious and decadent holiday lunches and dinners this season. That being said, I personally don’t believe in cutting out the savory spice of the holiday, so I’d also like to share one of my favorite recipes that’s a perfect choice after a long day of holiday shopping: my Loaded Baked Potato Soup. This is a delightful recipe if you’re looking for a warm and filling snack to relax by the fire with.

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

Serves 4


  • 8 slices of thick cut bacon
  • 1 tbs of butter
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of chopped garlic
  • ¼ cup of all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups of heavy cream
  • 7 large potatoes baked and then cut into chunks with salt and pepper to taste
  • ¾ cup of sour cream plus more for garnish
  • 1 cup of shredded cheddar plus more for garnish
  • ¾ cup of scallions plus more for garnish
  • Chicken base to taste


  1. Render bacon, remove, then cut into small chunks for garnish.
  2. Add butter to pan with bacon fat then sauté onions and garlic until translucent.
  3. Add in flour and stir for several minutes.
  4. Add heavy cream.
  5. Add potatoes, chicken base, and salt & pepper to taste.
  6. Add in sour cream then heat.
  7. Serve garnished with sour cream, bacon, cheddar cheese and scallions.

I hope these two recipes help you to find a balance between healthy and satisfied this holiday season!


When I think about Thanksgiving, I picture the gathering of friends with armfuls of trays and dishes, surrounding a hot oven. An entire holiday centered around savory and sweet recipes to fill our stomachs–is there much more you could wish for in a holiday? I think not!

Instead of the traditional menu of roasted turkey and gravy, bread stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, and pumpkin pie, I’m going to shake things up a bit and throw some extra thanks in the giving! Here is my 2017 Thanksgiving menu along with two of my favorite Gobble Day recipes.

New 2017 Menu:

  • Smoked Turkey with Gravy
  • Corn Muffin Stuffing with Sausage and Mushrooms
  • Black Garlic Mashed Potatoes
  • (My new) Steamed then Sautéed Haricot Verts with Cipollini Onions and Gruyere Cheese
  • Sweet Potato Pot de Crème


Steamed then Sautéed Haricot Verts with Cipollini Onions and Gruyere Cheese 

We all love a little green bean casserole with our Thanksgiving dinner so I’ve come up with version 2.0! My new recipe: steamed then sautéed haricot verts, garnished with a creamy homemade mushroom sauce with gruyere cheese and topped with caramelized cipollini onions. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!

Makes four servings

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced~ I prefer baby bella
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon thyme, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 ½ tablespoons flour
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ½ cup chicken broth
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ¾ cup grated gruyere
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pound haricot verts, trimmed
  • ½ cup pumpkin seeds
  • 8 cipollini onions


  1. Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat.
  2. Add onions and cook until tender and caramelized.
  3. Add mushrooms and sauté until the mushrooms start to caramelize.
  4. Add garlic and thyme then sauté until fragrant.
  5. Sprinkle with flour and stir for about 2 minutes.
  6. Add white wine to reduce and deglaze the pan.
  7. Add broth and cream then simmer until it thickens.
  8. Add cheese and let it melt, season with salt and pepper then remove from heat.
  9. Toast pumpkin seeds in a sauté pan until they are fragrant then let them cool.
  10. Bring a pot of water (with steamer) to a boil, add the haricot verts, and cook until they are al dente. Once cooked, place them in cold water.
  11. When ready to assemble, sauté the beans in a little EVOO (extra virgin olive oli) to rewarm them then place them on a plate. Top the beans with the mushroom sauce and garnish with the toasted pumpkin seeds.


Sweet Potato Pots de Crème

Pots de Crème is a French dessert traditionally made with chocolate that dates back to the 17th century. I figured, since sweet potato casserole is a timeless and traditional favorite served with Thanksgiving dinner, why not transform it into a spiced creamy dessert. After a little testing, here is my recipe, it’s even topped off with a delicious marshmallow merengue!

Step 1: Sweet Potato Custard

Makes six individual ramekins

  • 1 ¾ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • ¾ cup sweet potato puree
  • 7 egg yolks
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt


  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine cream, milk, syrup, and sweet potato then stir.
  3. Bring to a simmer then remove from heat.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk to combine egg yolks, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and salt. Very slowly, in a small stream, pour the sweet potato mixture into the egg mixture while whisking. Do not allow the eggs to curdle.
  5. Place six, four-ounce ramekins in a roasting pan. (Be sure the pan has high vertical sides.) Pour the sweet potato filling into each ramekin leaving half an inch space at the top. P
  6. Pour hot water into the roasting pan until the water reaches halfway up the ramekins then place the roasting pan on the middle rack in the oven and bake for 35 minutes or until the custard has set.
  7. When the custard has set, it will still have a jiggle to it. Allow to cool at room temperature for 10 minutes then carefully remove the ramekins from the water bath.
  8. Place the custard-filled ramekins in the refrigerator and allow them to finish setting for at least four hours or overnight.

Step 2: Homemade Marshmallow Spread

If you choose not to take the time to make your own marshmallow spread, you can use Fluff found in your local grocery store, BUT it’s worth making from scratch (to increase the “yum” factor).


  • ¼ cup and 2 tablespoons of water
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup light corn syrup
  • 4 ounces egg whites
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 vanilla bean pod split and scraped


  1. Place the water, sugar, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan then warm over medium-high heat until the mixture reaches 240°F on a candy thermometer, typically 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. While the sugar is heating, beat the egg whites in a cold bowl into soft peak so they’re ready at the same time as the sugar. Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat on medium until the egg whites are foamy. Increase the speed to high, and add in the cream of tartar and salt. Continue to mix until soft peaks form.
  3. Once the sugar mixtures reach 240°F, carefully remove them from the heat and let rest for about 20 seconds.
  4. With the mixer running on high, slowly stream the sugar mixture into the egg whites. Continue to mix for 7 to 8 minutes or until the outside of the mixing bowl returns to room temperature. Add in the vanilla; mix until medium-stiff peaks form. You can store in a jar in the refrigerator about 10 days.


Remove the pots de crème from the refrigerator, top with the marshmallow spread then brown using a torch or pacing under a broiler. Yum!


Happy Thanksgiving from our table to yours!

If you were stranded on a desert island and could only have one kitchen utensil, what would it be? For me, it would be my cast iron skillet – no question.

My cast iron skillet was the first pan I bought when I got married in 1971, because I knew that it would be with me no matter what happens! After more than 45 years of use, I am convinced that you would have to go out of your way to ruin cast iron. As long as you don’t use soap to clean it and dry it immediately after cleaning, a cast iron pan will be with you forever.

After cleaning, I dry my pan on a stove-top burner, re-season it with a little canola oil, and let it cool before I store it away.

It is no secret that cast iron pans make the juiciest crispy skinned chicken and the best sear on a rib eye steak! But aside from cuts of meat, they are also perfect for making a delightful, puffy pancake called a Dutch Baby. This is a great treat that rises just like Yorkshire pudding. Puffy and showy, it’s visually enticing as well as delicious with a custardy flavor.


Cast Iron Pan Recipe – Dutch Baby Pancake

Serves 4

Note that ingredients must be at room temperature since they are going into a VERY hot pan.


  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • ¾ cup heavy cream, room temperature
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Remaining Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided in two, room temperature
  • 2 large Fuji Apples, peeled and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Confectioners sugar for finishing


Preheat oven to 425°.

For the batter, whisk eggs, cream, flour, vanilla, salt, and ½ tsp. cinnamon in a medium bowl until smooth – set aside.

Melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a 10” cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add apple slices and sprinkle with brown sugar and ½ tsp. cinnamon. Cook, tossing often, until apple is coated and softened, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Wipe out skillet and heat in oven until very hot, about 20 minutes. Carefully add remaining 2 Tbsp. of butter to the hot skillet, tilting to coat bottom and sides. Add cooked apple to center of skillet; pour batter over. Bake until pancake is puffed and golden brown around the edges and the center is set but still custardy, between 12 and 15 minutes.

Serve drizzled with apple cider syrup (below) and/or sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.


Apple Cider Syrup

  • 4 cups apple cider
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Bring cider, butter, brown sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon to a boil over medium-high heat in a large saucepan. Reduce heat and boil gently, whisking occasionally, until thick and syrupy, about 30 to 45 minutes.