Instant Pot (with Recipe Links!)

There’s been a lot of buzz this past year about the Instant Pot. For those who don’t yet know, it’s an electric pressure cooker. It can’t do everything a stove top pressure cooker can, but you also don’t have to worry about it exploding on you. Pretty big bonus. While we were living overseas, buying one wasn’t an option. Then we finally settled back in the US and scored one during Black Friday. I’ve been using the LUX 6 qt Instant Pot (aka the one without the yogurt function which I don’t miss) for two months now and have a handful of recipes that have become new family favorites. Some recipes truly save a lot of time. Others don’t necessarily save time, but instead of standing over the stove I’m able to walk away and be productive with my time. I definitely don’t feel the need to make everything in an IP as some do (said in jest after some of the interesting ideas some people have had over at the Facebook group Instant Pot Community!), but I find enough that it’s been worth the cabinet space it takes up. I really do appreciate being able to sauté right in the IP too – less to wash in the end! I do recommend sticking to tried and true recipes for electric pressure cookers when starting out. It helps you learn how to use it while not wasting ingredients. While I won’t claim this will have me throwing out my rice cooker or my slow cooker, I have really enjoyed having another option for cooking safe meals for my family. 

The following recipes I’ve successfully made more than once and they’re all able to be made free from milk, soy, eggs, and wheat. 

Chicken Enchilada Soup – http://www.asaucykitchen.com/instant-pot-chicken-enchilada-soup-crock-pot-option/
Mexican Quinoa Dinner – http://pressurecookerconvert.com/mexican-quinoa-dinner/
Apple and Cinnamon Oatmeal – http://shrinkingmomster.com/instant-pot-oatmeal/
Chicken and Rice – http://www.apinchofhealthy.com/instant-pot-chicken-rice/
Pork Ribs – http://www.pressurecookrecipes.com/easy-bbq-instant-pot-ribs/
Sweet Potatoes (or regular potatoes – if yours are fatter ones up that steam time by a few minutes!) http://addapinch.com/instant-pot-sweet-potatoes-recipe/
Elderberry Syrup – http://www.tidbits-cami.com/2016/10/pressure-cooker-elderberry-syrup.html
Salsa Chicken (have also done this with canned diced tomatoes)- http://www.skinnytaste.com/instant-pot-pressure-cooker-easy-salsa/
Butternut Squash – http://www.youseasonwithlove.com/recipe/butternut-squash-in-the-instant-pot/
(Worked well for this recipe that uses butternut squash – http://avocadopesto.com/2015/10/18/vegan-butternut-squash-tacos-black-beans/)

Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes – better recipe coming soon, but I put potatoes in the inner pot with 1.5 cups of water and meatloaf on top in either a foil bowl or a small springform pan. Manual for 25 minutes. NPR while I get the oven going. Add meatloaf topping and broil it for a few minutes. Meanwhile I mash potatoes in the liquid right in the inner pot using my pasty blender (I don’t own a masher). Truly a family favorite!

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Just Another Day of Homeschooling

We had a rough morning today, but we were back on track by the time we sat down for an early lunch. Just grateful that we did get back on track! 😉 After lunch my younger two played with their little people toys while my oldest and I got to work. We started off today with reading this week’s poem and doing copy work from part of it.
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Afterwards it was on to history. We’re right in the middle of Ancient Egypt with Build Your Library 1. He loves it! After reading from a book about the art from then, we read a selection from Story of the World about mummifying. Then it was time to start our mummy experiment with apples! Can’t wait to see what happens over the coming days.

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We don’t like doing every subject every day, so we also did two more days of history today too. This time he colored a worksheet as I read. Definitely helps him to be doing something during some readings!

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We also had to add a figure to his time line (it’s folded up in the background of the above photo). By this point our hour of school is up! We do our literature reading and discussion for BYL before bed. Tomorrow we’ll work on phonics, math, and if there’s time science.

My four year old insists she’s ready for school now, but doesn’t believe me when I say that playing is her school. One or two times a week we sit down to do something together. It makes her happy. Today we did a page from the Handwriting Without Tears Pre-K book, talked about their Mat Man, and made a face using cut out numbers.

 

Progressive Phonics Review

I didn’t discover Progressive Phonics until my son already knew all of his basic letter sounds and was struggling with blends and digraphs. At the time we were overseas preparing to move back stateside. I needed something online to save space and to be more convienent. The fact that Progressive Phonics was free and instantly available was a bonus. Over 6 months has passed since I first sat down with my oldest to start their first intermediate book. We have stuck with this program this whole time. While the books are printable, we have actually been reading them on my iPad. Since this is the only subject we cover this way it makes it more special and interesting to my son. He loves that I have to read with him. When encounting new words, dual reading gives him time to think about the sounds before he has to read his words aloud. He really does like that we have to do this truly together. The books have done a great job of introducing these sounds in steps. We don’t normally do the worksheats provided, but there are printable activity sheets for each book. I am the type of homeschooling parent who needs a guide to keep me on track, but I also don’t want to be told every single thing along the way. Progressive Phonics is perfect for me since it’s flexible and easy to go at your own pace. We add in our own additional readers and activities (including copywork) along the way. I do consider this to be a complete program as is for basic reading, but as mentioned above it’s flexible enough to be altered to fit your family’s needs.

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Dual reading – my son reads the words in red and I read the words in black.

I won’t claim this is a perfect phonics program for every child, but I do think it’s worth taking a look at for many families. I do plan to use this from the start with my next child.

And have I mentioned everything is FREE?!

Website: http://www.progressivephonics.com

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Most of the readings are very silly, which keeps my child’s interest.

Note: We do use secular materials for homeschooling. Progressive Phonics is secular, so there is no religious content.

Fight With Your Sibling Day

Apparently today is Fight With Your Sibling Day along with Whine A Lot Day and Let’s Stab Each Other With Swords Day and Let’s Try To Break Our Necks Day and Mommy Should Have Poured Something Extra In Her Coffee Day.

That was today’s Facebook status. 

Ever have those days? 

*imagines all the parents out there nodding along*

We’re stuck in what feels like an eternal winter. Everyone wants out, but being more remote there’s no where to go other than outside into the very icy snow. Base activities in the winter keep centering around food – talk about terrifying when one of your kids has food allergies! I’ve rearranged the toys and put out toys they haven’t seen since in a couple of months. That helped for a day. I’ve started doing some basic school with my 4yo just to give her something to do! I feel like by the time we thaw out this spring I may have lost the last of my sanity. 

Homeschooling

I’ve just started up my second year of homeschooling my oldest. A year ago we had no idea where we’d be moving to come summer. Would it be to a school district that would place him in 1st based on his age or would it be a school district that would put him in K based on age (fall birthday)? Would he be ready for public school and sitting down for so many hours? Would we even end up living someplace with schools that are any good?! We decided last January to just forge our own path and start a formal kindergarten year with him at home. We were living in Korea and could not send him to the base school or the CDC since we were non command sponsored, so homeschooling made sense. When we moved over the summer/fall (it was months of being in between!) we kept evaluating what we felt would be best. For now it’s best for him to continue with homeschooling. Maybe one day it won’t be best for him, so we’ll keep reevaluating!

Kindergarten
Last January we officially started kindergarten. Over the course of those first 8 months we worked on Build Your Library kindergarten (BYL), Singapore math essentials workbooks, BOB books, Reading Eggs, Handwriting Without Tears kindergarten workbook, and a good chunk of Elemental Science’s Exploring Science. Some things worked well and some things didn’t work out as well. My son loved Build Your Library. He also did well with Singapore math and Handwriting Without Tears. Reading Eggs my son and I both liked a lot, but it got to the point where it was going ahead of his ability and he wasn’t willing to repeat things he had already done. I also couldn’t take one more minute of the BOB books (if you’ve listened to a kid read them then you already know why). Trial and error is just a part of homeschooling and should be expected! While the kids and I spent a couple of months living with my parents last summer I took some time to consider what would be best for those things that just didn’t work out perfectly for our family.

Transition
I don’t know what else to call it, but after we finished BYL K I knew my son wasn’t ready for BYL 1. However, none of us was wanting to pause school. He LOVES learning and it gives us some structure to our day. We ended up doing BYL’s prehistory unity study for this transition time as we completed our move and settled in to our new base. We did take it slower than written, leaving some things out and adding in other activities. This ended up being the perfect bridge between K and 1 for us. This gave my son the opportunity to mature a bit more while exploring something he always wanted to learn more about – dinosaurs! We continued on with Singapore math with 1A of the US edition and Handwriting Without Tears 1st grade book. Since we decided to dump Reading Eggs and BOB books, we gave Progressive Phonics a try. It’s actually worked out great. My son just does so well with dual readers and he’s made tremendous progress. We finished prehistory right before Christmas.

First Grade
This month we’ve started with BYL 1 – Ancient History. So far he’s thriving with it! Really glad we didn’t skip prehistory because these few months really did make a huge difference. We are not doing BYL 1’s science because the nature study as written is flat out not one of my son’s interests. It’s well done, but I’m not going to make my son do something he doesn’t want to do at 6. I want him to love science above all and we can always hit up a nature study later in his schooling. We’re currently learning about weather using some of Usborne‘s weather books as our spines. Who knows what we’ll do next – maybe I’ll get him to grow a mini garden? Or maybe we’ll learn about the human body? We’re almost done with Handwriting Without Tear’s 1st grade workbook. After this we’ll just use BYL’s included copywork. I have no plans to do a formal spelling or grammar curriculum this year. We’ve continued on with Singapore math and just started 1B of the US edition. He’s flying through and absolutely loves math! Progressive Phonics is still a great fit. Guess we’ll see how this goes long term, but for now we’re all happy and learning.

I plan to expand on everything we’ve used and are using in future posts. When I write out everything it feels like a lot, but reality is that we rarely do more than an hour of school a day.

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Taking a break from math work for some hands on fun!

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Adding information to our history timeline.

Allergy testing…

Now that it’s January I’m finally feeling settled in our new state and home. My goal is to finally get this blog up and going with consistent posts, so expect many new recipes (and even some repeats from my old blog for those that followed that), homeschooling tales, parenting EEKs, and more!

But first let’s talk about fall.

My youngest, not quite 2 currently, had bad bleeding eczema for most of his life. I knew milk, soy, and eggs bothered him and had that out of his and my diet since I was breastfeeding him. He did get better when we were able to stay on this strict diet, but the eczema persisted. Traveling back to the states from living overseas and then traveling cross country made things worse. It got to the point that we bought him Scratch Me Not sleeves and made him wear them with his hands covered almost full time. There were daily conversations about his skin, which cream should we try next, the random hives he had, his behavior, his sleep, etc. By October he was having puffy eyes too. We quickly saw the base pediatrician once we arrived to our new base. He was the first doctor that actually listened to us and didn’t dismiss our son’s issues like those we had seen previously. He quickly referred us on to an allergist.

In November my youngest was finally able to see an allergist and get allergy tested. The allergist almost didn’t do the skin test because his eczema was so bad, but the reality was that his skin would never improve on its own to where they’d want it to be. They were only able to do the top 8, but he had definite reactions to milk, soy, eggs, and wheat. The wheat was a shock and it’s been a huge adjustment for us all! He’ll have blood testing done later this year.

It took 5 full weeks before we noticed a difference, but once his skin started improving it improved rapidly. The only time he’s had puffy eyes or had a flare up is when he ate something he shouldn’t have (i.e. he dug food out of the garbage…yay toddlers….).

Looking back I’m just thankful that we had already identified three of his allergies. I can only imagine how much worse he would have been if we hadn’t.

What’s frustrating for me is that so many saw his eczema as just that….eczema. Assumed he’d grow out of it and there’s no cause we’d ever be able to discover. Eczema is an outward symptom of more that’s going on inside the body. It’s an immune response. Too many people are told that it can’t be related to food or environmental allergies, when the reality is that some cases are directly related to allergies.

Today he’s almost completely clear, is sleeping better than ever, and while he’s definitely still a toddler his behavior is easier to manage. He’s not in constant agony anymore!

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Allergy testing day!

Want to Drive Across Country With Three Kids?

Don’t. Just don’t. 

It really wasn’t THAT bad, but man oh man. We drove for 3.5 days straight. Remember all three are under 6. Oh the exploding diapers, accidents, and just general dislike for the car! Feeding my food sensitive child was impossible some days, so his poor eczema just exploded. But we marched on and made it to my husband’s new duty station. While the kids and I enjoyed our two months visiting grandparents, we’re all very excited to be back together with daddy and to settle down into a routine again. 

As soon as we have household goods in our new place I plan to start posting new recipes and more!