Friday Faves: InstaPot Banana Blueberry Oatmeal

I am a gadget person. When something new comes out and everybody is talking about it, I have to have it. Just ask my kids about my AppleWatch.

Around this time last year, the InstaPot seemed to be everywhere. My friend, Dan, was always talking about what he’d cooked up in his pressure cooker (he’s very inventive with beans and sweet potatoes) and it was all over my Facebook feed (mindreaders that they are). Also, a food writer I really like, Melissa Clark — whose sheet pan dinners are in constant rotation in my oven — had just come out with a cookbook of InstaPot dinners (Dinner in an Instant).

Naturally, I needed one.

Finally, for Mother’s Day, my two older kids got me one, and even though they’d spent their hard-earned money on the appliance, that did not prevent them from rolling their eyes and joking about how I’d never use it.

And they were kind of right. I’ve experimented with a few dinners, but nothing really stands out for me to tell you about. And once, I used the InstaPot to make jammy eggs (but using the stovetop is much simpler and you don’t have to haul anything out from a shelf in the closet).

But the one thing I make consistently — maybe once a week — in my InstaPot is oatmeal. It’s pretty much the same recipe I used to make in my slowcooker overnight, but instead of 8 hours, pressure cooker oatmeal is done in about 30 minutes.

It’s gotten to the point where I don’t even use a recipe anymore (and I always need a recipe). I just throw everything into the pot and seal the lid. It makes a bunch so I keep it in a container in my frig to eat for breakfast and force it on my 16yo, which triggers a different kind of eye rolling.

I always do blueberries and bananas, since I am a creature of habit. But you could do apples or other kinds of berries. I toast up some unsweetened coconut to sprinkle on top or add a dollop of plain greek yogurt.

It’s all very yummy and filling.

My friend, Susan, keeps raving about her new air fryer, so guess what I have my eye on for this Mother’s Day?

InstaPot Blueberry Banana Oatmeal

1c. steel cut oatmeal

4c. almond milk

1 glob coconut oil

1/4t. nutmeg

3/4t. cinnamon

2 ripe bananas

1 pint blueberries

4 swirls of honey (or 5, depending on how sweet you like it)

Mush bananas and add rest of ingredients to pot. Set porridge mode for 12 minutes. Enjoy!

*To slow cook, mush bananas, add rest of ingredients and set on low for 7 hours. Yummy waking up to the smell of oatmeal waiting for you in your kitchen.

Got an InstaPot recipe to recommend? Please do in the comments below! You can also subscribe to my weekly newsletter to see what other things I am in love with at any given time (which is changing all the time, except when it comes to Game of Thrones, to which I am dedicated).

Friday Faves: Mac & Cheese for a Crowd

I came downstairs a few weeks ago wearing maroon leggings, a black sweater and new trucker hat with our high school’s pirate logo, and my daughter looked me up and down and said, “Who ARE you?”

She was having trouble finding her mother — the one who favors all-gray ensembles and rarely wears hats — underneath the lady-of-a-certain-age standing in front of her decked out in our high school’s colors.

She hadn’t realized that nowadays, with her little brother playing on the football team, we take game day very seriously around here.

And since I’ve guzzled the high school football KoolAid, that also means I’ve started to embrace things like manning the ticket table at a BBQ and pitching in for pasta parties.

In the past, that would mean I’d bake these chocolate peanut butter crowdpleasers. But now that I’m a committed Football Mom, I even volunteered this week to make a pasta dish for the pasta party, which I considered the ultimate act of love for my baby football player since I don’t really have a go-to pasta recipe (and certainly not one to feed 40 hungry teenagers).

I went on Pinterest and threw ideas out at him while he ate his dinner but whenever he said, “That sounds good,” I’d check how many ingredients were called for in the recipe and then say, “Next.” This was not an occasion for impressing anyone. Just feeding them.

I scrolled some more and asked, “How about mac and cheese?” and he gave a happy shake to his head. I bypassed recipes that called for four different cheeses and any kind of seasonings, and then the word “Velveeta” caught my eye, and I knew I had found just what I was looking for.

So that’s how I found myself yesterday cubing four pounds of the weird, unrefrigerated cheese product to melt into a quick roux of butter, flour and a ton of whole milk. You pretty much pour it over your macaroni and throw it in the oven. I baked it halfway then pulled out and added some shredded cheese on top because, cheese.

What I loved about this recipe was that the site automatically adjusted the amount you need of each ingredient for the servings you’d like to make because, math. I plugged in 50, made four boxes of pasta and it filled up 2 big disposable lasagna trays.

Are you going to make this for your book club? Probably not. But for pasta parties, tailgates or block parties, it’s a home run — or a touchdown (I learned that this year).

 Mac and Cheese for a Crowd (Serves 50)

4 pounds elbow macaroni
3/4 pound butter
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 pounds Velveeta cheese, cubed
1 1/2 package (8 ounce size) shredded Cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cook the macaroni until al dente as directed on package. Drain and evenly distribute amount long, shallow pans (I USED 2 13.5 x 9 5/8 x 2 34 disposable Lasagna pans).

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, melt the margarine. Stir in the flour until smooth. Add the salt and pepper and slowly add the milk, stirring constantly, until smooth.

Stir in the Velveeta cheese and continue stirring until the cheese is melted and the mixture is smooth and creamy.

Pour the cheese sauce over the macaroni in the pans to evenly coat (I MIXED IN POTS BEFORE POURING INTO BAKING PANS TO COAT THE NOODLES). Sprinkle the shredded cheddar over the top of the macaroni (8 ounces per pan).

Bake the macaroni at 350 degrees F for one hour or until bubbly in the middle.

Got any good pasta party recipes up your sleeve? Share! We promise we won’t make it if our kids are on the same team!

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Friday Faves: Jersey Corn Style

My 20yo, who’s a junior at a big state school, decided last minute to come home last weekend and take a break from exams, projects and weekend daging (day drinking+ rage = daging).

Naturally, one of the the most important topics of conversation as we prepared for her arrival, other than how she was going to snuggle me like a baby otter, was what would be on the menu for the weekend.

While my other children would be totally happy if I told them I’d just order a pizza for Friday night dinner, this girl has higher standards. Even away at school, she and her roommates cook dinner every night and I’m not just talking pasta with a jar of sauce dumped on top of it (which is probably more than I would have ever cooked when I was in college). They make curries and sweet potato hashes and work with ingredients like harissa and tempeh.

I remembered she’d pulled a recipe out of a Real Simple magazine that came over the summer that she’d pinned to the bulletin board in our kitchen but we never got around to making it before she left in late August.

/> Pasta With Chicken Sausage, Corn, Leeks, and Mushrooms


I took a picture of it and sent it to her and asked her what she thought and pointed out that one of the ingredients was in season right now here in New Jersey.

That cracked me up.

She arrived home just in time to help put it all together, which was perfect because there was a little bit of chopping involved — especially the leeks — and my hospitality major is a wiz at slicing and dicing things up. I am good at microwaving ears of corn and slicing the sweet, white kernels off the cob. The only change we made is, since we are spicy people, I used a hot chicken sausage. And I’m not super-mushroomy, so I didn’t go nuts with them. Just a handful for flavor.

It was so good. Like, so good. Her older brother arrived home and joined us for dinner and we kept talking about how yummy it all was.

We went out to an early dinner the next night and sat at the bar and drank smoky mezcal margaritas rimmed with some kind of magic dust and ate guacamole and tacos at my new favorite place in Asbury that I can’t stop talking about and honestly, it was a pretty perfect weekend.

I hope yours is, too.

Got a fave? By all means, please share.

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Eileen’s Chocolate Cake

IMG_1392My mother-in-law was  a lot of things, but fancy wasn’t one of them. And even though in the end she would wind up living on a golf course in Florida and belonged to one of the swankier beach clubs on the Jersey Shore, she stayed pretty true to her humble Pennsylvania roots. She saved rubber bands and plastic bags and twist ties and presumed birthday candles were good for a few birthdays. Why chuck perfectly good candles out after just one use?

She was also good at getting the job done. A real pragmatist. So when her youngest of four was old enough, she went back to school to get her master’s degree, often carting him along and depositing him at some childcare situation on campus. She landed a job as the librarian (back when we had librarians) at one of the local high schools where she worked for 25 years and retired right as the Dawn of the Internet approached and her long-practiced methods would become obsolete.

So when she cooked for her family, her offerings were basic but good. Comforting. The broccoli casserole covered in mushroom soup on Christmas. The savory baked beans she’d prepare for a summertime bbq. The pot roast she brought over the night I came home from the hospital with my own fourth child.

Of course she baked all sorts of cookies around the holidays and put them out on her fancy tiered plates on Christmas Day for us to nibble on as we opened our stacks of presents. And she would make a peach crumble in the dead of winter using canned peaches that brought me back to my childhood desserts of the 70s. When my mom would serve us bowls of peaches floating in that sweet syrup straight out of the can. Those nights were so much better than when she’d open the can of fruit cocktail with the sour pieces of grapefruit lurking within. #buzzkill

But my favorite of my mother-in-law’s desserts was her chocolate cake that is as no-nonsense as she was. A real workhorse. It’s always a crowd pleaser and couldn’t be easier to make and when served a little warm with a big dollop of freshly whipped cream (or perhaps a scoop of ice cream), measures up to some much more complicated recipe. But who has time for that?

Life is short, people. Bake a cake and share it with the ones you love.



  • Box of Devil’s Food cake mix
  • Box of instant chocolate pudding
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • chocolate chips

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a tube pan (Eileen’s trick: use the cake mix as your flour). Mix together everything up to the chips and then throw them in at the end and pour into your prepared tube pan. Bake around 45 minutes to an hour or until the cake looks firm and not jiggly. Let it cool for a bit before removing from pan and serving to your happy family. Taste the love.

What mommy doesn't want to feed her baby cake (and apologies for blinding flash but I'm really a much better writer than photographer and have to live with that deficit every day)?

Perfect Dinner to Cure the End-of-Summer Blues



I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I’m over this summer. It’s like, enough already. If summer was a person, I’d tell her that she’s been very nice and all and provided us – at least here along the coast of New Jersey – with some pretty gorgeous weather but it’s time to say adieu. It’s been a lovely few months to sit in the sand and swim in the ocean or lounge around reading. But now, it is time for Mrs. Summer to leave. She’s overstayed her welcome.

In fact, that is truly the case. I learned while watching my favorite TV showCBS Sunday Morning – this week that when Memorial Day (the final Monday in May) occurs at its earliest (this past Mat 25) Labor Day occurs at its latest (Sept. 7 this year). The official summer season quite literally could not be one day longer.

One of the biggest problems for me with summer is that I flounder in unstructured settings. Of course, for someone who’s been home raising her children for the last 20-something years while attempting a freelance writing career, this is a challenging predicament. I struggle with time management. I also probably had too many children to begin with. Because when I’m also responsible for managing other people’s time on top of my own, I’m pretty fucked. That’s why I always signed my kids up for swim team and tennis lessons when they were young and insisted on summer jobs as they got older. Schedules are totally my friend.

Nowadays, the only person’s schedule I really need to manage is my 12yo son’s. He went to sleepaway camp for a week and mostly ran around the neighborhood and swam in the ocean with our neighbors for much of the summer.

Highly unstructured.

But now the neighbors have gone back to Hong Kong and my son spends his days trying to organize pickup games of soccer or watching YouTube videos on his iPhone and has yet to finish his mandatory summer reading to start seventh grade.

In other words, he needs to go to school before I murder him.

But I always feel a tad anxious at the end of every August. A bit of malaise inevitably sets in as I count the hours before the first day of school. Very little inspires me in that long slog towards Labor Day.

Which is why I kind of surprised myself the other day in my ho-hum state by whipping up this – really and truly – delicious pasta dinner. In my all-or-nothing approach to life, generally I’m not trying new things in late summer. I’m grilling hot dogs and heating chicken nuggets for my people and waiting for the first day of school to really wow them with anything resembling a proper meal.

And as for the “pasta” part, okay, right, I know. I’m really not supposed to be eating pasta. Apparently, according to someone who feels he can say these things to me, it makes me “blow up.” Fine. Yes. Sure. Whatever. As far as I’m concerned, at the end of the summer, all bets are off. The countless margaritas and pita chips I’ve consumed on the beach this summer have not helped matters.

But this dinner was so easy – you kind of just put everything into a straight-sided sauté pan and boil away – and produced such a creamy bowl of wonderful comfort on an endless end-of-summer night, it was worth wearing elastic pants the following day (truth be told, I’m often running around in workout clothes most days anyway).

I improvised slightly (shocking, for those who know me and my dedication to rule following) and browned the chicken sausage that we love from Sickles (we’re also hot for Whole Foods’ spicy variety) in the pan before adding the rest of the ingredients. I also used bow tie pasta instead of spaghetti and found it took a lot longer than nine minutes to boil the whole thing down. I dug up an article that offered other ways to improvise upon the original version and pinned both of them to my “Things I Like to Make” Pinterest board to keep in on hand.

For those of you not on Pinterest, I have to say that I’ve come to rely upon it as my own personal recipe box and refer often to that board where I’ve pinned the meals we tend to eat again and again. It’s more convenient than the jumble of recipes ripped from magazines and newspapers (remember newspapers?) and print outs from the Internet I stuffed in a binder for years. It’s worth exploring.

Now you’ll have to excuse me, I need to figure out what I’m doing today before my son wakes up and I take his iPhone away.

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