10 Best Apps for Cooking With Ingredients On Hand

10 Best Apps for Cooking With Ingredients On Hand

Good or bad, wanted or unwanted – our lives have changed. A major area of change is food preparation. My husband and I used to eat out a lot. We used to be at our grandchildren’s sporting events on weekday afternoons. No time to cook there; eating out was a must. Even when we were at home, we might look in the refrigerator and not see anything to cook. Another eating out opportunity!

But COVID-19 has changed all that. No excuses. I had to cook more. Fast food drive-thru eating can get boring quickly, not to mention how unhealthy that can be. But I still look in the refrigerator and ask myself what do I cook for dinner? (And now, that includes breakfast and lunch!)

So I researched apps that would give me recipe ideas based on the ingredients I have on hand. One or more of these could help solve that staring into the refrigerator paralysis. These are the top 10 apps based on consumer ratings. I only included apps that were available for download on both IOS and Android devices.

Even though the apps were presented in order of user ratings, their value depends on needs of the user. The ninth app listed might be more useful to the user than the number one rated app.

All of the apps reviewed allow the user to search for recipes based upon ingredients on hand and generate grocery lists. However, each delivers a different food preparation experience. A summary of what might be most important to a user and the app to choose follows:

  • For customizing the entire food preparation process from searching for recipes, creating a cookbook of saved recipes, generating grocery lists based on recipes, shopping for groceries and having groceries delivered (only by Walmart) – choose TASTY
  • For starting with the main ingredient to search recipes resulting in beautifully detailed instructions for cooking – choose EPICURIOUS
  • For creating a personalized cookbook and publishing to a community of like-minded individuals – choose KITCHEN STORIES
  • For a broad and varied way to filter recipes based on ingredients and different combinations of ingredients – choose SUPERCOOK
  • For “foodies” who follow food blogs – choose YUMMLY
  • For specific food diets based on nutritional needs – choose SIDECHEF
  • For recipes based on utilizing leftovers – choose BIG OVEN
  • For a social experience that includes sharing and chatting about recipes and cooking – choose COOKPAD
  • For a personalized file of recipes that continually responds to your personal preferences and previous choices – choose ALLRECIPES
  • For a more automated family-inclusive process from selecting a recipe to grocery shopping – choose RECIPE TO TABLE

The best way to select an app that fits your cooking preferences and lifestyle is to download ones that sound like they would work for you and try them out. And there may be other apps that would be more appropriate for your circumstances. If you find yourself cooking more than ever before and need to get out of the rut of preparing the same things over and over, a food app might be your solution.

Bonus: Download 10 Best Apps For Cooking With Ingredients On Hand chart here https://vickiloves.me/AppsIngredients

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even though the apps were presented in order of user ratings, their value depends on needs of the user. The ninth app listed might be more useful to the user than the number one rated app.

All of the apps reviewed allow the user to search for recipes based upon ingredients on hand and generate grocery lists. However, each delivers a different food preparation experience. A summary of what might be most important to a user and the app to choose follows:

  • For customizing the entire food preparation process from searching for recipes, creating a cookbook of saved recipes, generating grocery lists based on recipes, shopping for groceries and having groceries delivered (only by Walmart) – choose TASTY
  • For starting with a main ingredient to search recipes resulting in beautiful detailed instructions for cooking – choose EPICURIOUS
  • For creating a personalized cookbook and publishing to a community of like-minded individuals – choose KITCHEN STORIES
  • For a broad and varied way to filter recipes based on ingredients and different combinations of ingredients – choose SUPERCOOK
  • For “foodies” who follow food blogs – choose YUMMLY
  • For specific food diets based on nutritional needs – choose SIDECHEF
  • For recipes based on utilizing leftovers – choose BIG OVEN
  • For a social experience that includes sharing and chatting about recipes and cooking – choose COOKPAD
  • For a personalized file of recipes that continually responds to your personal preferences and previous choices – choose ALLRECIPES
  • For a more automated family inclusive process from selecting a recipe to grocery shopping – choose RECIPE TO TABLE

The best way to select an app that fits your cooking preferences and lifestyle is to download ones that sound like they would work for you and try them out. And there may be other apps that would be more appropriate for your circumstances. If you find yourself cooking more than ever before and need to get out of the rut of preparing the same things over and over, a food app might be your solution.

Instant Pot Porcupine Meatballs

Instant Pot Porcupine Meatballs

In a previous blog post, I talked about the basics of an Instant Pot. Today, I’m sharing my most recent experience of cooking in an Instant Pot. Porcupine Meatballs is a family favorite – meaning my husband likes it!

I whole-heartedly recommend reading the user manual first. In my experience, that will pay off and save you time in the long run. Did you guess that I didn’t heed my own advice? If so, you are correct! I thought I could remember what to do; surely the controls were intuitive. Not necessarily.

PORCUPINE MEATBALLS

Preparation Time: 30 min

Cooking Time: 8 min

High Temperature

INGREDIENTS

½ cup long-grain white rice (uncooked)

¼ cup finely diced yellow onion

¼ cup beef broth

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon allspice

1 ¼ teaspoons salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

1 pound ground beef or turkey

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 (16-ounce) jar chunky spaghetti sauce

2/3 cup beef broth

3 teaspoons sugar

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a mixing bowl, combine uncooked rice, onion, beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, allspice, salt and pepper. Add the ground beef (or turkey) to the bowl and mix well.
  2. Form the meat mixture into 1 ½ inch balls.
  3. With the cooker’s lid off, heat oil on HIGH or “Saute”, until sizzling.
  4. Brown meatballs in the oil on at least 2 sides. You may need to work in small batches to brown them all. When finished, return all meatballs to the cooker.
  5. Mix spaghetti sauce, beef broth and sugar and pour over meatballs in cooker and securely lock the pressure cooker’s lid. Set for 8 minutes on HIGH.
  6. Let the pressure release naturally 10 minutes before performing a quick release for any remaining pressure. Set cooker to LOW or “warm” and serve.

Before I started making the meatballs, I started rice cooking in a double boiler, so I could serve the meatballs over the rice. A simple salad is a good way to complete the meal.

Assemble all ingredients first.

Then, I assembled all ingredients and chopped the onion. As I measured the first 8 ingredients in Step 1, I added them to a mixing bowl.

I usually do Step 3 first or at least before Step 2, which included adding the oil and turning on the Instant Pot to Sauté, so it can be heating.

I mixed the ground beef with my hands, trying not to overwork the meat. In Step 4, I added the meatballs to the oil to brown, using silicone tongs to carefully turn the meatballs as they brown. Browning on all sides as much as possible adds flavor to the dish.

Turn meatballs gently to brown on all sides.

I was able to brown all meatballs in the same batch. However, if your meatballs are crowded, cook them in batches until all are browned.

In Step 5, mix remaining ingredients and pour over the meatballs. To secure the lid, align the upside-down triangle with the vertical triangle “Open” on the cooker housing rim. Turn clockwise to lock in position.

(As in reading the manual, I found this process is faster if you actually locate the above marks and align them to lock the lid!)

Setting cooking time involves the Manual setting and adjusting the time to 8 minutes. The temperature should come on the high setting. About 10 seconds after you complete the settings, the LED light should indicate ON. This means pressure is building to the appropriate temperature and pressure, which also means you need to allow enough time for this to happen. When this is complete, the light should change to the cooking time and count down until cooking is completed.

After cooking is completed, the Instant Pot switches to WARM to keep the food warm and allow time for pressure to go down. Allow this to occur naturally instead of doing a Quick Release.  At the end of 10 minutes, you should be able to turn the steam release handle to Venting to complete the release process. Be sure to stay away from the steam release handle to avoid burning yourself from remaining steam. Before opening the lid, make sure the float valve next to the Steam Release Handle has dropped down.

Ready to eat! Serve with or without rice and enjoy.

OBSERVATIONS AND/OR TIPS: (The products listed below in italics are clickable links for ordering. Hover over a product to see if there is a clickable link.)

  • If you don’t have an Instant Pot, this recipe could easily be cooked in a Dutch oven on the range. You would need to allow enough time for the rice to cook or add quick-cooking rice instead of long-grained uncooked rice.
  • My recommendation for beef broth is Better Than Bouillon. (I also love the Better Than Bouillon Chicken Broth.) If you’d like to try both the beef and chicken bouillon, click here to get a 2-pack!
  • To make the recipe healthier, the following swaps are recommended:
    • Ground beef that is 80-20 is a good ratio of lean meat to fat, because it does not render so much fat that you need to drain it. Also – if you could get pasture-raised, grass-fed beef, it would be healthier.
    • Most vegetable oils are not the healthiest choices. I used avocado oil in this recipe. It can be heated to higher temperatures without breaking down like olive oil. Coconut oil (organic, unrefined cold-pressed is best) will also work.
  • You can vary the taste by selecting any type of chunky spaghetti sauce you like.
  • I also prefer brown sugar to white sugar. I often use a small amount of brown sugar to reduce the sharpness of my homemade spaghetti sauce.

The cookbook I referenced, Great Food Fast by Bob Warden, has some great-sounding recipes. I’ve already selected several to try next. If you’d like a copy of the cookbook, you can order it here.

If you try out this recipe in your Instant Pot, comment about your experience! Or let us know about other recipes you’ve tried and your own Instant Pot hacks!

Disclosure: Bear in mind that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. Keep in mind that I link these companies and their products because of their quality and not because of the commission I receive from your purchases. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.

Instant Pot? Great Scott!

Instant Pot? Great Scott!

Raise your hand if you got an Instant Pot for Christmas OR already had one. How often have you used it?

I’m sure it has already transformed your life. You’re cooking more healthy family meals at home and are constantly finding new ways to use it. (LOL!)

Truth? I’ve had one for about a year now, and I’ve only cooked a few things in it. I do have one recipe I like and have cooked it several times. Seems like I don’t have the time to find a recipe I want to try, have all the ingredients on hand or the time to learn the controls of my Instant Pot. My husband says I’m always surprised that mealtime comes around so regularly!

And I have another confession to make – one that is going to determine what I share with you. I’m really a very picky eater. I like my food
plain and predictable. I’m not very adventurous when it comes to trying out new foods. And that presents a problem. There are lots of Instant Pot recipes out there, but most contain ingredients I don’t regularly buy and would never eat in the first place!

So – let’s talk a little about features of the Instant Pot first and meal situations for which it would be a good idea to use it. Then we’ll talk about recipes.

As you probably already know, the Instant Pot (and by the way, that’s not the only brand on the market) uses pressure and heat to cook a wide variety of foods more quickly than other methods. The pressure also tenderizes meats well. Most instant pots are programmable, with settings to sear, sauté, steam, slow-cook and simmer. All the settings and programming alone can confuse you and leave you saying “I’ll try it out when I have more time to actually read the manual”, and you never do.

If your recipe calls for the food to be crispy or crunchy, don’t use an Instant Pot. But for many other foods, it works great. It is especially good
for meats (pot roast comes to mind). You can also cook vegetables, mac and cheese, soups, chili, and the list goes on and on.

Real Simple’s recent article by Laura Fisher, “6 Things to Know Before You Use Your New Instant Pot”, is a good starting place
to familiarize yourself with the basics. You can access that here: https://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/tools-products/appliances/how-to-use-instant-pot. 

If you want the CliffsNotes version (do they still have those??) of the article, here it is.

  1. Start out using the Manual setting and leave the programming to learn later
  2. Even though cooking time is greatly reduced, you need to add time for preheating and pressure release.
  3. Don’t let it scare you. Instant Pots are much safer than the old “jiggling-top” pressure cookers. (I had one of those and was always nervous when it started jiggling too much!) Just be careful with the quick-release function and avoid the rush of escaping steam.
  4. The Instant Pot is great for quick cooking, but if want the flavors of the recipe to develop more, use the slow cooker instead.
  5. At least start out using recipes that are designed for the Instant Pot.
  6. Just in case you go out on your own without a recipe, at least include some liquid.

Have a great Instant Pot recipe to share? Let us know about your experiences and tips in the comments section.

In the next post, I’ll start sharing some recipes I like and tips for success with them. See you then!

And, just in case you’re one of the few people who didn’t get an Instant Pot for Christmas, you can order yours here: https://amzn.to/2Rzop0h. It’s on sale now at Amazon!

Disclosure: Bear in mind that the above link is an affiliate link and if you go through it to make a purchase, I will earn a commission.
Keep in mind that I link companies and their products because of their quality and not because of the commission I receive from your purchases. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.

Homemade Sweet Pickles in 10 Minutes??

Homemade Sweet Pickles in 10 Minutes??

Do you really think homemade sweet pickles can be made in 10 minutes? I can do that! Well, maybe not completely in 10 minutes (and maybe semi-homemade), but I can certainly finish the making part. The sugar takes longer to do its part. Let me show you how I do it.

Recipe – Sweet Cucumber Pickles

Ingredients:

  • Sour pickles
  • Sugar 

Directions:

  • Drain liquid from jar of whole sour pickles
  • Trim off ends of pickles
  • Slice pickles (in food processor, with a mandoline or by hand with a knife)
  • Return pickles to original jar.
  • Spoon sugar on top
  • Replace jar lid
  • Keep adding sugar daily until syrup covers pickles and they are sweet to your taste

I usually let the pickles sit on the counter for several days and keep adding sugar until they are sweet enough. And that is the easiest and fastest way to make semi-homemade pickles! Check out my video for how to do it. It’s just a little over 5 minutes.

My two gallons of pickles were sweet enough for me in about five days. And I use a LOT of sugar!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1h1u0y1oMm0&t=108s

Eating Right is a Habit

Eating Right is a Habit

We all know that eating right is sometimes impossible. Our busy lifestyles don’t lend themselves to cooking our own healthy meals. Easy becomes our go-to choice, whether it is a conscious or unconscious decision. That drive-thru is so much easier at times.

And everyone indulges now and then with foods that would not be considered healthy. Doing this is not considered a problem. However, when people make poor food choices as part of their regular diet, that is problems emerge.

The foods you eat are based on your habits. It takes time to develop these habits and requires you to stick with them to make them work. It’s also about making a conscious choice of the ingredients that go into your foods. Do you check nutrition labels at the supermarket?

But, just checking the labels is not enough. You need to understand the impact of the foods and how they affect a balanced diet. You can have too much of a good thing when eating. For instance, eating fruit is good. Eating too much fruit could increase your sugar levels. Even though fruit sugars are natural, they contain sugar just the same.

But where do you start to develop good eating habits? Trying to be too restrictive in the foods you eat is often a pattern for failure. Start with trying to create balance by eating more healthy foods than fast food. For instance, it’s okay to eat salt, and your body requires a small amount of it. But you shouldn’t load up on foods that are high in sodium. The better approach is to prepare your meals with basic ingredients. You can control the ingredients when you do this. This means you can choose how much salt or sugar, or whatever ingredients to add.

As part of your routine, you should also factor in portion control. This is one of the essential attributes that can make or break a diet. If you manage proper portion control, you will be able to eat more of the foods you enjoy, even if a few of them are not considered great choices.

Developing good eating habits is especially difficult if you’ve succumbed to a lifestyle of fast and easy instead of thoughtful choices. It does take a great deal of effort to make healthy changes when demands of your job and activities of your children are pulling you in so many directions.

The biggest problem with eating right is the benefits are not seen until sometime into the future. We live in a society where instant gratification is the norm.  This makes it much harder to stick to healthy eating plans, because losing weight, and even more importantly, feeling great, won’t start happening until months later. This is why the early part of forming good eating habits is so crucial to the process. Try to focus on the benefits you will see later.

Think about it. How might the effort of developing good eating habits impact your life, and more importantly, the lives of your children?