As we walk in the door at 5:45 p.m., the most stressful part of our day begins. Jonas, my 16-month-old, instantly starts banging his little fist against his open mouth signing that he wants to eat. Darby, my three-year-old, runs in asking, “Can you make me a ‘pecial dinner, Mama?” It is a mad rush to find something nutritious to serve them fast — berries, carrots, yogurt, cheese, and whole wheat pasta are frequently seen on their plates. It is all I can muster.
Cooking dinner for my kids on the same night it is meant to be eaten is as likely as a leprechaun riding a unicorn into my kitchen and preparing Loch Ness Monster Meunière. I won’t say it’s impossible, but it is highly unlikely. I am constantly struggling to manage life as a working mom who loves to cook and wants to serve hearty, healthy, homemade food to my family.
Now, a lot of people find the answer to this dilemma in one tool: the slow cooker. But after years of trying to love my slow cooker and figure out what every other working mom in my life was raving about, I gave up. Revoke my Mom Card if you must, but I just don’t like my slow cooker.
A few perfectly timed blog posts and some input from friends convinced me to buy an electric pressure cooker instead. A tool that speeds cooking? Yes please! I am not exaggerating when I say this thing has changed my life. The slow cooker required a lot of planning ahead, something my life just didn’t allow; the pressure cooker eliminates that issue, which was a total game-changer for me. (And yes, it’s safe.) Dinner is ready in a matter of minutes rather than hours, and the dishes I make are just as wonderful (if not better) than if you made them in a pot on the stove.
4 Ways I Use the Pressure Cooker to Feed My Kids
Every week I use my pressure cooker for at least these four things. I usually make large batches of everything so I’m ready to go as soon as we walk in the door.
1. Hard-Boiled Eggs
Hard-boiled eggs are one of my go-to super-quick dinner offerings, and my kids go nuts for them. In 10 minutes, I can have perfectly cooked hard-boiled eggs that are unfathomably easy to peel. I still feel like I’m part of some life-hack video every time I peel these eggs. I rarely go a day without hard-boiled eggs in the fridge. If you marketed a pressure cooker as a hard-boiled-egg maker, I’d still buy it. (My method: Three minutes on low with a four-minute natural release. Then quick release and put the eggs in ice water to cool.)
2. Steel-Cut Oats
I love steel-cut oats and so do my kids. The pressure cooker makes steel-cut oats in less time with less effort than stovetop cooking. Dump in the oats and water. Set the pressure cooker for 10 minutes. That’s it. I make a big batch with a pinch of salt, cinnamon, and vanilla so I can further customize them to everyone’s liking for the week. Some berries and a splash of milk make this a great breakfast for me to take to work, saving time in the morning.
3. Short-Grain Brown Rice
Rice is a staple in my house. Darby would eat rice topped with olive oil and parmesan everyday if I let her, and Jonas loves that he can easily pick up the sticky short-grain rice himself. Short-grain brown rice takes about 50 minutes on the stovetop; it takes 20 in the pressure cooker and it is perfect. While the kids eat dinner, I can make a big pot of rice to put in their lunches or to serve with dinner the next night.
4. Grown-up Dinners (aka, My Favorite Part)
Once the kids are in bed, I cook for Mike and me. Knowing that I have that option cuts my dinnertime stress significantly. Perfectly braised chicken with wilted greens served on some of that short-grain brown rice — a meal that would take hours in my Dutch oven — is ready in no more than an hour (20 minutes of cook time plus prep and letting the cooker reach and release pressure). While it cooks, we can clean up so we’re ready to relax when dinner is served.
I will never quit you, pressure cooker. Please don’t ever quit me.