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The Instant Pot is a Super Hero of the Energy Efficient kitchen!

OK, so now that you got an Instant Pot for the holidays, what, exactly, do you DO with it? First of all, you should take a minute to understand the science of how it works. See my previous post if you want to geek out about the physics of the instant pot.

If you’re new to electric pressure cookers, I’m sure you’ve already spent hours drooling over the amazing, fancy recipes with a long list of ingredients online. I encourage you to continue to cook amazing meals in your pressure cooker, but I am not here to post another fabulous addition.

Rather, I’d like to simplify things.

Let’s back up and see how an electric pressure cooker can be the energy efficient “super hero” (yep, that blue thing on the image above is supposed to be a super hero cape...kinda....thing) for a more sustainable kitchen and food system.

Owning an electric (or stove-top) pressure cooker allows you to easily cook simple, plant based, whole foods at home rather than buying them pre-cooked and packaged. This reduces transportation energy and single-use packaging.

Reduce Single-use Packaging and Transportation Energy:

Example #1 – Beans!

Let’s start at the basics here – beans! There is plenty of evidence that we need to switch to more vegetable proteins to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Adding more beans to your meals are one of the easiest ways to do this. And – beans don’t have to be boring…they can be amazing. Check out this post from "The Kitchn" for 25 ways to incorporate beans into your amazing dinners.

Obviously, the quickest, easiest way to get beans is canned but this requires that they are cooked in a factory (adding significant water weight prior to shipping) and canned (adding a single-use package). A pressure cooker makes cooking beans a snap. Black beans are my favorite and so I make a big batch (2 pounds of dry beans at a time) and freeze the extras in wide-mouth pint jars (see recipe below).

I keep one of these jars always defrosted in my refrigerator, ready to sprinkle on a salad or pasta, toss on a pizza or add to a rice bowl. They’re also easy to defrost if I don’t have one ready to go. Simply take a jar out of the freezer, remove the lid and place in the microwave on high for 2 minutes. No canned goods necessary!

Example #2 – Long cook veggies

(like Winter squash & Beets)

Pressure cookers also allow for us to incorporate more healthy whole foods into our diets. This reduces packaging (purchase these items in the produce section without a plastic bag or container). Also – shopping at your local farmers market will ensure that the produce has traveled the minimal mileage (be sure to bring your own reusable bags to avoid plastic).

Need canned pumpkin? Skip the can and buy a small, whole pumpkin. Cut it in half, remove the seeds and put them in the IP (see recipe below).

Craving some canned beets (a nutrition super star!)? Buy a bunch, remove the greens (sautee these separately), pop them in the IP and you’ve got perfectly cooked beets with practically no effort (see recipe below).

Note that the Instant Pot is not the best cooking device for most vegetables as the high temperatures over cook them but these long-cook veggies are a perfect match for the IP’s higher temperatures.

Example #3 – Large Batch Hummus


Our family can easily burn through one of those shallow hummus plastic containers in a single sitting. That results in burning through a lot of single-use plastic packaging.

The instant pot offers a simple solution – cook up a big batch of dry chick peas (same recipe as black bean below) and make your own hummus using any of the thousand amazing recipes online (just replace 2 cups of your cooked beans for one 15oz can). Keep some of the cooking liquid to help thin out the hummus while in the food processor. I’ve included one of my favorite hummus recipes below but you are encouraged to get creative!

Then, re-fill previously used, washed plastic hummus containers. You’ll be amazed how much this makes for less than $3 of dry chick peas (and other added ingredients such as lemon juice, tahini and a bunch of garlic J)! Keep a couple in the refrigerator and freeze the rest for future snacking needs!

These are just a few examples of how to let your instant pot improve the sustainability of your kitchen! Here are a few more:

  • Make healthier brown rice in the time it takes to cook white rice (and avoid pre-cooked and re-dried “instant rice” or pre-cooked options).

  • Make your own batch of yogurt weekly from carton purchased milk rather than buying yogurt in single use plastic tubs.

  • Make a batch of lentils to keep an easy ground beef replacement on hand. See my previous post for the recipe as you don’t want to use high pressure here or they’ll turn to mush.

Happy cooking!


No-Can Big-Batch Beans

-Note that these are unflavored and so you can add seasoning as you add them to a recipe or eat them – they are intended to be canned bean replacement.

-If 2 pounds is just more than you need, this can all be cut in half (but keep the cooking times the same).

  • Buy 2 pounds of dry beans (try to find these in the bulk section of your grocery store or famers market so you can use reusable bags to transport them home and avoid single use plastic bags).

  • Soak them in enough water to cover them by approximately 2 inches of water (by morning they will have expanded almost to the height of this water).

  • Note that while this pre-soaking step is not required when pressure cooking, it results in cooked beans that are more easily digested without as many “side-effects” that beans are known for J.

  • Drain and rinse the beans and add 6 cups of tap water and 2 teaspoons of salt.

  • Place the water, beans and salt in the instant pot, seal it, press “manual” and set the time for 5 minutes.

  • 5 minutes is not a typo. For pre-soaked beans, this is all that is needed for ACTIVE cook time (with electricity flowing into the Instant Pot). It will continue to cook for a long time “passively” (no additional electrical energy input) until the pressure releases.

  • If you, like me, enjoy your beans a bit firm (not mushy), let it passively cook (naturally depressurize) for 30 minutes and then vent it manually and open it.

  • I strain the beans into jars as soon as I open the Instant Pot without much liquid and cap them. While these jars are definitely is not shelf stable, I find that if I jar the beans while they are still very hot and close the lid, they will stay in the refrigerator unopened for a couple of weeks with no trouble. This helps avoid freezing (and freezing takes more energy than refrigerating since the refrigerator is at a higher temperature and there is no phase change required).

No-Can Pumpkin Puree

  • Choose a small sweet pumpkin, acorn or butternut squash or similar.

  • Place 1 inch of water in the Instant Pot and set on “manual” (high pressure) and 10 minutes.

  • While the water is coming to a boil, cut the squash in half (or in quarter if it is large).

  • Scrape out the strings and seeds in the middle.

  • Keep the seeds, let them sit out and dry for a couple of days then toss with olive oil and garlic salt and roast in a 300ish degree oven for 10 minutes (find a time the oven is on for some other reason rather than turning it on just for this). Done - delicious zero packaging snack!

  • Place the squash halves on a trivet above the water in the instant pot, close and seal.

  • Let the Instant Pot cook and naturally release.

  • Take out the squash and let it cool.

  • Scrape out the cooked squash and eat it or use it as you would use canned pumpkin.

No-Can Beets

  • Find a bunch of beets.

  • Place 1 inch of water in the Instant Pot and set on “manual” (high pressure) and 10 minutes.

  • While the water it coming to a boil, scrub the beets and cut off the greens.

  • Cut the beets in half (don’t skin yet) and place them on a trivet above the water in the instant pot and seal.

  • Let the Instant Pot cook and naturally release.

  • Take out the beets and let them cool.

  • The skins will now just rub off the flesh very easily.

  • Slice or dice and enjoy! (I love mine with a splash of olive oil, red wine vinegar and garlic salt!).

No-plastic Hummus

  • 2 cups cooked chick peas (follow "Big Batch Black Bean" recipe above)

  • 1/2 cup tahini

  • 1/2 cup lemon juice, or to taste

  • 3 cloves garlic, or to taste

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, or to taste

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • Dash of paprika

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or cilantro or any herb you love

Place all ingredients in a food processor and run until smooth. Use cooking liquid as necessary to get the right consistency. Store in any container and enjoy. Freezes well.

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