Pothead Night recipes

WP_20170904_08_18_35_Rich.jpgI recently hosted some friends over to share my love of food and the ease of the Instant Pot. While I do hunt through a lot of recipes and often blend then without much thought, there are some key basics I always look for with Instant Pot recipes.

Sizing – If I’m cooking a whole chicken, what is the weight in the recipe? With stew meat, how big are the chunks? This tells me the most about how accurate the cooking time might be for what I’m trying to do. Speaking of which….

Cooking Time – Most recipes I’ve found ignore all those lovely preset buttons and use “Manual” for a certain number of minutes. However I choose to spice something up, that cooking time is critical, inclusive of….

NPR versus QR – Natural Pressure Release versus Quick Release: Deciding how to release pressure is just as important as the cooking time because it is cooking time. The best recipes call out not only what method, but the approximate time it will take. (See #5 below for more details) This page does a great job calling out when to do which but most recipes will tell you. Just to reiterate, if you are going to QR, aim away from your face or anything that might be damaged by a spray of hot steam.

To Trivet or not trivet – I generally see that meat recipes aiming for a shredded, fall off the bone don’t really need a trivet whereas pretty much everything else not a stew or soup does. There are many kinds so the recipe should explain if you need something special.

Order of Things – If you’re sautéing, searing, or any sort of multi-function in the recipe, the order in which you do all that is really important. Especially if you’ve graduated to pot-in-pot (PIP) cooking.

Total Time – It’s also really helpful if you consider Time #2 + Time #3 (If the recipe doesn’t give you total time) relative to other dishes you may be putting together for your meal. I recently had a recipe for a ham that was supposed to be approximately 36 minutes in a 350 degree oven. With my medium sized sweet potatoes, the recipe I had for them called for 16 minutes cook time and QR which meant that about 20 minutes after I started the ham, I turned the Instant Pot on.

Everything else in recipes for me (unless I’m baking) is up in the air and dependent on what kind of spice I’m thinking of that night. Indian? Italian? Greek? Moroccan? Given the above, you can pretty much play around with any recipe until your own standards start to develop. As to that, here are the few starting recipes from our Pothead night.

Instant Pot Whole Roast Chicken (Once a Month Meals)
Instant Pot Salted Caramel Cheesecake (Cookies & Cups)
Instant Pot Blood Orange Marmalade (Every Nook & Cranny)
Instant Pot Frozen Chuck Roast (Thrice the Spice)

I’ll be working on posting our own versions, especially of the last one since we played the most with that one and wound up about 10 minutes faster on cook time.

Grandma Z’s Ragu


My maternal grandmother was first-generation Italian immigrant, born in Cliffside Park, New Jersey. I went through several phases of knowing her. First as a live-in grandma when my dad went on a tour abroad and my mom, brother, and I lived with my grandparents. I don’t remember much of that phase except an unexplained familiarity with polka music (my grandpa was first-generation Polish immigrant), a love for lemons from the garden, and oh boy, the spaghetti sauce. I mean, yum!

After we moved to Montana and I grew up, Grandma would come to visit and became the voice telling my mom to get whatever I wanted from the Victoria’s Secret (which was always tamer than you’d think) and exclaiming “Don’t touch my sauce!” any time I tried to help her cook up her lovely concoction.

Later, as an adult, I managed to get staffed as a consultant back in her adopted town of San Diego and was able to help her through recovery after knee surgery and share memories with her with a new level of understanding and respect, a woman who had lived through a world war, crossed an ocean alone with 3 small kids as an Air Force spouse, and tended to my ailing grandfather for years after his stroke.

And always, there was Grandma’s sauce. When she finally shared her secrets and her recipe, it was a treasured gift, a legacy of love from a woman I adored and who’s looks I had inherited along with a love for books and libraries.

We lost Grandma Z even before her passing as dementia took hold which made the recipe I’d captured even more heartfelt. I cook it whenever I want to feel her with me, in the kitchen, making sure I’m stirring the sauce but not too much. And also when I’m just hungry for a damn good pasta sauce.

Grandma’s version took hours in a pot on the stove, no crockpots for her. She had actually whittled it down to 3 1/2 to 4 hours leveraging modern shortcuts. Maybe in the earlier days, she might have used  fresh tomatoes or other ingredients but Grandma was nothing if not practical in the kitchen.

In that vein, I recently felt like it was time to do an update to the recipe, leveraging my Instant Pot. I know she would definitely approve. When I first went looking for the recipe cards, I couldn’t find them. This was after 3 moves in 3 years and I’m not always as organized as I should be with my recipes, stuffing them into other books or magazines along the way. But a quick shoutout to Grandma Z in heaven and sure enough, she helped me find it.

Interesting enough, Grandma’s sauce is technically a ragu because there’s meat in it. Obviously, season to your own taste, step back from the garlic if you’re a vampire, and swap out fresh for dried herbs if you add them in later. Except the parsley. Best fresh, best added last for that freshness.

Grandma often ate the parsley while she added it. She was fresh that way.

Grandma Z’s Pork Ragu

Grandma Z's Pork Ragu - Instant Pot version

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Authentic but easy rustic pork ragu sauce especially good with spaghetti.

We use this sauce for spaghetti or lasagna. If using for lasagna, you may want to thin it a bit. For slow cooker version, let simmer on Low for 6-7 hours. (No point in using a slow cooker on High. )

Credit: Grandma Z


  • 2 country pork ribs (bone or boneless)
  • 2 medium (14.5 oz) cans diced fire roasted tomatoes
  • 2 medium (14.5 oz) cans Italian style diced tomatoes
  • 1 small (6 oz) can tomato paste
  • 1/2 a whole small garlic, about 6-8 cloves
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp ground cayenne red pepper
  • 2 sprigs fresh parsley, right at the end


  1. Peel the garlic cloves. If you want stronger flavor, smash the cloves first. If you want a more mellow flavor, leave them whole.
  2. Remove pork from packaging and set within reach of your Pot.
  3. In the instant pot insert, pour olive oil, and turn on your Pot to Saute mode (for certain version, set to Low Saute.) REMEMBER: NEVER hit Saute and walk away.
  4. Place garlic in the insert and saute for about 2-3 minutes.
  5. Sear outside of pork ribs by putting first in, turning it on each side while making sure garlic stays in motion in the pot.
  6. Add the second rib and repeat. Add more oil if needed.
  7. Turn off Saute (hit Cancel).
  8. Add all cans of tomatoes, can of tomato paste (keep 1 empty can of tomatoes and can of tomato paste for later if you need more liquid.)
  9. Add all the spices, minus the parsley, and stir.
  10. Secure Instant Pot lid, press Manual, set to 35 minutes.
  11. Let natural pressure release (NPR).
  12. Open lid. If you used bone-in ribs, get bones out.
  13. Use masher to break up pork meat.
  14. If sauce is too thin, put on Saute for a few minutes. If too thick, use the tomato paste can first and add 1/2 a cup at a time until desired thickness.
  15. Serve or Can.

I’m a Pothead. Instant Pot Head

Several months ago I took the plunge and bought the Instant Pot. Pressure cookers are no novelty to me. My mom has been using them for all the time I can remember, back to the days when we would have to search the kitchen for the circular metal topper before we could use our stovetop version and have to put it into the kitchen sink and dose with cold water to lower the pressure inside to even open it.

I’ve also been a long-time fan of the slow cooker having grown up with hearty stews made from ton cuts of deer, elk, or antelope meat that my dad had hunted during our years growing up in Montana.

And I eat rice and hard boiled eggs. Like a lot of Seattle’s techy throng, I subscribe to the excitement for intellectual cooking as typified by Sir Alton Brown however not quite the McGyver-esque zeal that propels me to make a smoker out of foil, terracotta  planters, and wood chips I harvested from my last foray into the forests.

Nope, I’m a lazy cook. I like to understand enough to make choices like which cut of meat to speed the dollars on and which ones to troll the discount bins and throw in the slow cooker.

Oh, and I hate washing dishes. Or really, putting them away. Yeah I never minded filling the dishwasher or even sudsing up myself. But putting them away….ahhhh, man!

So after reading all the virtues of said Instant Pot (which my friend Kate and I both agree should be called Insta-Pot, because it’s so quick it needs to abbreviate the word. Ha!), I wanted to give it a go. Also, living in a much smaller space in the city, I was interested to see if I could get rid of my other slow cookers to settle on the One-To-Rule-Them-All!

Boy, have I been sold! So much so that I can often be heard selling its features to friends and family and have made a Pinterest board dedicated to recipes. I moved quickly from fresh hard boiled eggs every morning to whole chickens, frozen pork shoulder, lotion bars, and now cheesecake. I haven’t tackled yogurt or bread yet…but I’m getting there.

I’ve even now hosted a Pothead night to help my friends who hadn’t even unboxed their trendy purchase break the seal and start cooking. Which presented an interesting problem: I leverage plenty of other recipes across the Internet but there is one recipe that is uniquely our family’s, a second-generation Italian family’s loving legacy of our matriarch. Grandma Z’s spaghetti sauce. What to do about updating, storing, and posting that recipe to friends and family.

Well, enter the dust-covered lifestyle blog that I started many moons ago as an offshoot of my fiction blog. The outcomes of converting and creating new recipes can nicely land right here in addition to other important lessons of Pot-ter mastery: timing and toys. Sometimes it helps to know when you are putting meals together when to start up the Pot, when to fire up the broiler, and whether the metal or silicone heating basket might do best.

So to this end, I re-launch Style Just be, a lifestyle diary of discovery, experimentation, and dedication to promoting your own learning, creativity, and fun.





NFL Wild Card Weekend

I’ll make this short and sweet since I’m still reeling from the Spanos family’s bad decision to keep the Norv and AJ Smith in San Diego. But before I succumb to an episode of Tourette’s, here are my picks:


Texans over Bengals

Saints over Lions


Falcons over Giants

Pittsburgh over Denver

What’s my Super Bowl right now?

I’m thinking Patriots and Saints…Who DAT?! WHO DAT?!

NFL Week 17: Play big or go home!

So here we are at the last weekend of the regular season and the start of a new year. The die hasn’t been cast quite yet for the playoffs and a few things that have popped into my sleep-deprived brain are the following:

  • Resting healthy players doesn’t bode well.  Football is all about momentum and resting players, no matter how logically sound, seems to always wind up adding rust to hot players. Green Bay should take note of how the Colts have paid for that strategy multiple times.
  • There is no dominate defense this year.  NFL Sunday had a great piece by Football Jedi Master Bill Parcells on the inconsistency of subjective calls this year such as defensive player calls. I have to think this is feeding the fact that no defense this year has been dominate. Every team has been beaten big (and oftentimes late) by a team. All the 21+ point 4th quarter comebacks accentuates that. It makes the traditional playoff wisdom fly out the window.
  • Veterans have something to prove. With all the Cam Newton, Tim Tebow, and even Andrew Luck (college player QB chat in NFL? WHAT?!), the top echelon quarterbacks in the NFL picked up their game and records are falling. Again, you can’t count out the impact of rule changes but the only rule change that had Tom Brady running into the end zone from short yardage and spike the ball is the rule that he was a precision passing QB. Even Brady, formerly unflappable in style, seemed to be sick of all the Tebow talk. And spiked a ball into the end zone as if to say “Here endth the lesson, son!”

Ok, on to the picks…

The Picks

Falcons over Bucs

Giants over Cowboys

Saints over Panthers

49ers over Rams

Jags over Colts

Texans over Titans

Lions over Packers

Eagles over Redskins

Patriots over Bills

Vikings over Bears

Dolphins over Jets

Bengals over Ravens

Browns over Steelers

Chiefs over Broncos

Cardinals over Seahawks

Chargers over Raiders

Fantasy Island

The results are in. And are very unimpressive. But I had a great time doing it and learned a lot.

One Final Note

I’d like to just take a moment to again thank Marty Schottenheimer for his service to an under-appreciating Chargers organization. Now I think it is absolutely clear: You don’t fire a 14 –2 coach. Ever.

I ❤ Martyball!

NFL Week 16: East Bound and Down

So these Thursday night games are killing me and I hear the NFL is planning for more. Maybe it’s a concerted effort to kill the Fantasy League practices…or maybe it’s just the quest for more money. Knowing the NFL, it’s a little of both.

Still, I can tell you in all honesty I would NOT have picked the Colts to beat the Texans so mark that ‘L’ for me.

And as I’m about two shakes from heading East Bound and Down, I’m going to make this post ever so brief….

The Picks

Thursday Night

Texans over Colts – Loss!


Ravens over Browns

Panthers over Bucs

Pats over Dolphins

Chiefs over Raiders

Titans over Jags

Cardinals over Bengals

Giants over Jets

Steelers over Rams

Bills over Broncos

Redskins over Vikings

Chargers over Lions

Cowboys over Eagles

Seahawks over 49ers

Sunday Night

Packers over Bears

Monday Night

Saints over Falcons

Fantasy Island

So in my inaugural fantasy season, I managed to scratch out a bid for the fifth place consolation game. Not that impressive but not that horrible considering the bulk of my team relied on Rivers-Gates and they, frankly, haven’t had a great year either. Lessons learned and Thursday night match-ups notwithstanding, it’s been a fun experience and I look forward to the playoff challenges.

Happy Holidays, Everyone in Cyberland! Keep on truckin’!

NFL Week 15: Early Bird Gets the Home Field

Frankly, I haven’t read all scenarios for the playoffs. I figure it’s all math gibberish and ultimately, whether or not a team on the bubble makes it in depends on so many things that it’s just too early to worry.

Here’s the part where I weigh in on the perfect season talk. Green Bay looked so dominate in the first fifteen minutes of play against the Raiders, that even the Raiders fans changed the channel. Not that it would’ve been a good match up anyways but seriously. I know, I know, every year we have this talk about whether a team can go perfect in the regular season. And then there’s Green Bay. Which seems to walk around with the kind of nonchalant confidence of  the biggest kid in the gym class right before picking sides in tug-of-war.

Yeah, no matter what happens, not only CAN they win but it’s just a matter of HOW. What weapons will Aaron Rodgers use to even the score up? Just how many sacks will Clay Matthews force to get to 4 and out?

Yeah, they’re that good, people. SO don’t worry if you’re team can make it into the playoffs. Can any team beat them?

Oh, and one point that does seem to be kicking around this week from various pundits. If God is gracing Tim Tebow with luck and therefore wins this season, then that must mean one thing:

Aaron Rodgers is God.

The Picks


Falcons over Jaguars


Cowboys over Bucs


Dolphins over Bills

Giants over Redskins

Titans over Colts

Texans over Panthers

Packers over Chiefs

Bengals over Rams

Saints over Vikings

Seahawks over Bears

Raiders over Lions

Eagles over Jets

Cardinals over Browns

Patriots over Broncos

Chargers over Ravens

Monday Night

Steelers over 49ers

NFL Week 14: Wild Card Willies

It’s the time of the season for the wild card windstorm, teams with a hope and a prayer wishing for favors to just get them into the playoffs. Like every year, circumstances of all kinds have popped up this season to take teams that shoulda, coulda, woulda looked like division champs stumble. Chicago, can I buy you a quarterback? Detroit, can I buy you some anger management classes? San Diego….yeah well, you know where I’m going with that one.

The crazy thing about this part of the season is that the teams that should turn it up seldom do and the teams that should put a fork in it and pray for draft day usually play spoiler. And there’s a certain amount of certain-tude in that; the NFL is about parity. On any given day, any given team can beat another.

This season has really pushed the question: why the heck didn’t this team beat this other team? But now, now it gets to be crazy pants, what I like to call the “Wild Card Willies.” Yeah, I’d like to pick the Pats over Redskins, no question….BUT the Pats have a bad record against the ‘Skins. I’d like to pick the Jets to clobber an undermined Chiefs…BUT the Chiefs have retooled so many times this season, they might be pointing at Joe Cool in the stands to come play.

It’s a flurry of Wild Card Willie games today where anything can happen but a few things seem clear: The Packers seem poised to be perfect and Tebow seems poised to eek into the playoffs. One because the team is that good and the other, because other teams are that bad.

What it boils down to is some “Who the Hell Knows?!” games which make it awfully exciting just to savor the season.

You hear that NBA? You may want to take note.

The Picks

Steelers over Browns WIN

Falcons over Panthers

Lions over Viks

Packers over Raiders

Bucs over Jags

Dolphins over Eagles

Pats over Redskins

Saints over Titans

Ravens over Colts

Chiefs over Jets

Texans over Bengals

49ers over Cardinals

Bears over Broncos

Chargers over Bills

Giants over Cowboys

Monday Nite

Seahawks over Rams in the what else is going on that evening on TV? night. Score? Really. Who cares?

Fantasy Island

I’m hovering in the middle of the pack after a big win last week bolstered by top notch Chargers play by Gates and Rivers. It makes one wistful for what coulda been if Kaeding going down on the first play of the first game hadn’t been so predictive of the rest of the Chargers season. The margin of success? 0.68 points.

This week, I’m up against another of the league’s heavyweights and it will again come down to Rivers-Gates to try and afford me another win.

Thinking of Playoff Challenge? Yeah, maybe. Got to get through the holidays first!

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