One of my 2018 goals is to create a routine of posting journals on here more regularly.
Another one of my goals this year is to get back in the habit of meal prepping and cooking real food. (Something I used to be good at but I let the end of 2017 completely wreck me.)

SOOO this journal post is a first attempt at working on both of those goals :)

For Christmas, my parents gifted me a Crockpot Express Cook, which is basically a pressure cooker/slow cooker hybrid. It does all kinds of things... slow cooks, pressure cooks, sears, steams, simmers, etc. It. Is. Amazing. And I guess being this excited about receiving a small appliance for Christmas is the true sign of being an adult.

Well, I've used the pot twice so far and am pretty happy with the results. I figured why not start sharing my adventures with it?! Now, these two recipes are admittedly not the healthiest, but they were fun and tasty... and at least they weren't fast food. ALSO, you don't necessarily need an instant pot for these two particular recipes. They can easily be make with a slow cooker or good old pots and pans on the stove; you'll just need to adjust the cooking times to whatever tools you are using.

But anyway, here we go!

Black-Eyed Peas

A good chunk of my extended family is from the South (Mississippi, to be exact), where it's a New Year tradition to eat black eyed peas for good luck. Apparently the shape represents the shape of coins, and that is supposed to bring prosperity and luck. (We also make a point to eat mandarin oranges or tangerines for the same reason. idk, it's weird, but I still do it.) Pressure cookers help make awesome peas/beans, so I wanted to try them out in my new pot. Here's what I came up with, loosely following the directions on the package of dried peas I bought.

Makes 6x 1 cup servings
1 lb dried black eyed peas

8 cups water (or you could sub vegetable or chicken stock for extra flavor)

2 tbsp olive oil

4 slices bacon

2 cloves garlic, minced

Salt, pepper, any other seasonings to taste

- Pan fry your bacon as you would normally. Doesn't really matter is it gets super crispy or not - you're throwing just them in for flavor.
- Once the bacon is done, throw that and the rest of the ingredients into your instant pot. Seriously, It's that easy. As far as seasonings, I usually just kind of wing it when I cook. A little of this, a little of that. For this recipe, I think I added chili powder, paprika, fajita seasoning (a bunch of peppers, salt and garlic), and comino. I wish I had some bay leaves or something, but I just used what I already had on hand.

- Put the lid on, lock it, and make sure the pressure valve is in the off/sealed position.

- Select the "Bean/Chili" setting on your pot, and cook for 20 minutes.

- When the cooking cycle has completed, I suggest letting the cooker release its pressure naturally, which can take up to 20 minutes. (Alternatively, you can also manually release the pressure by opening the pressure valve.)

Instant Pot Orange Chicken

This one was a little more involved than I realized, but still pretty easy. I basically followed this recipe from Sweet and Savory Meals with some tweaks here and there.

Makes 6 servings

2 lbs chicken breast, cubed

2 tbsp cornstarch

2 tbsp olive oil

1 cup orange juice (I used a lower sugar, lower calorie OJ since this recipe requires actual sugar)

4 cloves garlic

1 cup tomato sauce

1/4 granulated sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

Zest from one orange

Sriracha to taste

Green onion for garnish

Optional: broccoli, red peppers, any other vegetables you want

- Pre-heat your pot with the Saute function. When it is heated, pour in your oil and add your chicken to saute for 2-3 minutes (or until it is just golden).

- Add in the tomato sauce, garlic, sugar and brown sugar, Sriracha, some of the orange zest, and 1/4 cup of the orange juice (save the other 1/4 cup for later). Stir and coat all ingredients with the sauce.

- Put the lid on the pot, lock it, and make sure the pressure valve is closed/sealed. Select the Poultry option on your pot and let cook for 7 minutes.

- When the 7 minutes are up, turn your pot off and let it naturally release pressure for about 10 minutes. 

- Remove the pot lid and turn the Saute function back on.

- In a small bowl, whisk the cornstarch with the remaining 1/4 cup of orange juice until there are no lumps. Slowly pour it into the instant pot and combine with the sauce. 

- If you're going to add any veggies to the mix, now would be a great time to, so that they can be coated by the sauce. I added broccoli and red bell pepper to mine. Just gently stir them into the pot so that you don't shred your chicken too much.

- Let the sauce cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.

- If you'd like your sauce thicker, whisk together another batch of cornstarch and orange juice and slowly stir it in again. You can do this until you've reached your desired consistency. (I personally ended up adding 2 more tbsp of cornstarch to thicken.)

- Serve over rice (I used quinoa because that's all I had on-hand), and garnish with green onion and extra orange zest.

So there you have it; foodies! These were both great for dividing up into individual servings for meal prep (and no I did not eat these recipes in the same meal. that doesn't sound very appetizing). Both recipes also did well in the freezer, so if you made way too much, just freeze the extra for later.

Do any of y'all have a instant pot? Any cool recipes you want to share? (Bonus points if they are low carb. I could stand a few less carbs in my life.)