In both my private practice as well as my work in a health clinic as a health coach, one of the number one challenges I hear is being able to consistently eat “healthy” food.

Whether you want to make adjustments to your eating to support overall health, address a diagnosed condition, lose weight or sustain a healthy weight, the key is to find ways to make the cooking doable.

Yes, assessing healthier take-out and prepared food options can be a part of the strategy.

But the bottom line is that to really enjoy healthy foods that fit you best, you want to be eating fresh, made-with-love meals. And this means cooking!

If you’re like me, cooking is the means to and end, but not something I love or want to spend hours doing. As such, I’m always looking for ways to make the cooking easier, faster, and more convenient with all the other things I want to or need to be doing.

This month I want to share my 3 top kitchen tools and highlight benefits and challenges about them to help you be inspired to cook more and save time doing so!

With all of my kitchen tools I look for ease of use, tasty results, and the ability to pay less attention to the cooking for periods of time.

Examples include starting my oatmeal in my rice cooker before I do my yoga or walk in the morning so my breakfast is all set once I’m done.

Or taking 15-20 minutes putting together a dish for the crockpot and coming home to a hot dinner.

Or using the Instant Pot in the morning to cook a quick, fresh meal that I put into a thermos or tiffin storage container to take to work with me.

The Rice Cooker: my old stand by

  • Works beautifully for a wide variety of grains, legumes, and vegetables in any combination. It remains my favorite to make my grain pilafs, morning oatmeal, and kitchari (the Ayurveda rice-mung bean medley).
  • For most, after the dish has finished cooking, it will automatically switch to a warm cycle. This allows you to do the 3-5 minutes of set up then press the button and walk away without any further thought.
  • Though you can cook soups and stews in the pot, because it is designed to be “done” by the liquid element being gone, you will manually have to turn off the cooker at some point. Because of this, I tend to cook those dishes in a crockpot or Instant Pot.
  • You can cook vegetables with a grain or legume in the main pot, but the texture of the vegetables tends to be mushier. You can use the steamer rack on top and just add the vegetables part way through as a secondary option.
  • It is limited in the range of dishes that you can cook – or at least that’s what I’ve found. This is where I’ve found the Instant Pot shines!

The Instant Pot: my new favorite

Instant PotThe Instant Pot is basically a programmable electric pressure cooker. But the programmable aspect makes a huge difference in terms of what you can do with it and your “walk away” options. I didn’t really think I wanted yet another kitchen device and was a skeptic about this one for years. Now, I must say that I’m hooked and loving it! Now my stove-top pressure cooking is mostly sitting in the cupboard unused.

I also gave one of these to my 23 year old daughter for Christmas.  She works in the burbs and lives in central Chicago, thus a hefty daily commute.  She is also enjoying new recipe ideas and the time saving techniques to help her save money (less eating out) and eating better.

  • The #1 benefit for me has been the variety of things I can cook it in – everything from curries to side dishes to yogurt to cakes and breads. The breadth of options is far greater than what I’ve done in the rice cooker or crockpot.
  • Some of the various options are due to the large Instant Pot community and the massive amount of recipes out there. I started with the cookbook “The Fresh & Healthy Instant Pot cookbook” by Megan Gilmore, which I highly recommend. What I like about her book is that she uses higher quality ingredients, no refined white sugar, and gives gluten free and vegan options to all the recipes. This is a great option for folks dealing with specialty food needs. The downside is that she using some of the same ingredients over and over, like sweet potatoes, squash and coconut milk, which can get a bit old.
  • The new recipes have been inspiring me to cook more and most of them are easy to follow and use.
  • Cook times can be quick – but are not instant. Depending on the recipe, there could be 10-30 minutes of prep. And even though many recipes only call for 0-8 minutes to pressure cook, it takes another 10-15 minutes to reach the pressure level and can have an additional 10 minutes of venting time.
  • Though there is a warm cycle that it switches to after the main cooking, unless you’re going to leave it for a long period, during which the food is still cooking, you have to then set a timer and manually vent afterwards. This requires an extra step in the walk-away process.
  • You can sauté items before starting the main cooking in the same pot more effectively than in either of the other tools.
  • I have the 6-quart version because it allows me to cook 2 things simultaneously in what is called pot within a pot cooking. This is definitely an added feature I like. But the Instant Pot itself is a honking big thing that now takes up space on my counter.

The Crock Pot

  • CrockpotThe only time I use a crockpot is if I’ve got a dish I want to start in the morning and have warm and ready at dinnertime. However, depending on when I have to leave and when we return home, I have found the timing challenging, even when cooking on a low setting.
  • While I love the idea of what this offer, I also have not found many vegetarian recipes that are tasty enough for me to keep using.   For my meat-eating family, there have been some keeper recipes, however.
  • The recipes that have been the tastiest often require more prep work, which for me often defeats part of the purpose.
  • It is a great dish to keep something warm at a party or even, if using the mini one, to warm up food in an office without using a microwave. This is currently what I do in my offsite clinic work if I haven’t cooked fresh that morning. I bring in my dish, put it in the pot then plug it in about 45 minutes before I’m going to eat. The key is to remember to plug it in!

I hope that my insights and experiences guide you in considering one or more of these tools simplify cooking and increase your desire to cook.

And if you’ve got any great Crock Pot vegetarian recipes, please send them my way!


Copyright © 2011 to present Jamie Durner, Holistic Wellbeing Coach @ All rights reserved.

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