Pressure Cooker "Boiled" Eggs

I've tried every trick out there for cooking easy to peel eggs. EVERY. TRICK. And I don't think there was a single one that worked consistently. Some methods would work one time, and then not the next time.

Make hard or soft "boiled" eggs in your pressure cooker - perfect every time. This is fool proof. The peels just slide right off. From WhatLIsaCooks.com

Then I discovered cooking eggs in my pressure cooker.

I'm telling you - perfect eggs every time, and the shells practically fall off. 

If you have a pressure cooker and haven't hard cooked eggs in it yet, you must try. And if you like hard or soft boiled eggs but you don't have a pressure cooker - you must get one!

If you don't yet have an electric pressure cooker - let me just take a moment and tell you about mine. Don't be scared - they are not the dangerous things they used to be. They are electric and easy to program and super safe.

I have two! The first one I've had for several years and it is my favorite - is the Cuisinart Pressure cooker. It's a workhorse.  The second one I had to try because everyone was raving about it is the Instant Pot. They are both great, and they both have their advantages. The Instant Pot is a multi cooker - it can be a slow cooker and a pressure cooker and a rice cooker and a yogurt maker, and I guess it does even more than that because they call it a 7-in-1 cooker. If you really think that you will use all those other features, then it is a great choice. But as for just pressuring cooking, I like the Cuisinart best. It has more options for adjusting your pressure cooking settings, and more options for timing, simmering, and sauteeing your ingredients before you start the cooking cycle. Those things are also possible with the Instant Pot, but I just find the Cuisinart to be more intuitive and easier to program and use. Also, it's less expensive. Either way though, you can't go wrong. 

Anyway, back to the eggs. Here are the instructions.

Pressure Cooker Eggs:

Perfect soft cooked eggs in the pressure cooker. WhatLisaCooks.com
  • Place a rack or trivet in the bottom of your cooker pot
  • Add about a cup of water - I like to use hot water just to get it going faster. You want the water to be under the rack, not touching the eggs. (be sure to read the directions on your cooker for the minimum amount of liquid you can use - I think it's about a cup for most.) 
  • Carefully place eggs on the rack. A lot of recipes you read for this have you putting them in separate little cups or making little foil nests for them. I have never found this to be necessary and it just takes more time. Yes, occasionally one or two will crack, but I've found that this happens regardless of whether you "nest" them, so I really don't see the point. You can cook just one or two at a time if you prefer to eat them warm (best for soft cooked eggs), or I can fit about 10 at a time in my cooker without crowding them too much.
  • Close your cooker and set it to low pressure.
  • Cook according to the times below.
  • When your time is up - use the quick release method and get the eggs in an ice bath to quickly stop the cooking. I sometimes just dump a bunch of ice and cold water right in the pressure cooker pot on top of the eggs.  This is quicker than lifting them out one at a time. 
Just in time for Easter! Easy instructions for how to cook perfect eggs in your pressure cooker every time. from WhatLisaCooks.com

Cook times for pressure cooker eggs:

  • Soft Cooked: 3 minutes on low pressure, quick release, ice bath.  These will have still slightly runny yolks. I LOVE these for breakfast - either mashed up on toast or just lop of the top of the shell and eat them with a spoon. 
  • Medium Cooked: 4 minutes for on low pressure ,quick release, ice bath. These will have just solidified yolks, maybe sometimes with a small dot of wet still in the very center. This is my favorite if I'm making eggs to peel and eat whole for lunch or snack. I personally love to dip them in salt. I think this is also perfect for slicing on a salad. 
  • Hard Cooked: 5 minutes on low pressure, quick release, ice bath. These will have fully solid yolks. This is best for making deviled eggs or egg salad. 

 

But seeing is believing! You have to see how easy this is, so I made video. If you don't want to watch the whole cooking process, just skip forward to about the 4 minute mark, to see how they peel so easily that I can do it with one hand!

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Lisa Marsh

Mom to two sets of twins.

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Mr & Mrs Food Face!

Our feeding therapist for our extreme picky eater recommended that we try to make meal time fun and silly - anything we can do to take the stress out, and ease the anxiety for her. 

So - to that end, we have introduced Mrs. Food Face. It's just a super cute little plate with a face, and you can use food to adorn the face as you like. We're just getting started, but I think we're going to have a lot of fun with her. They also make a boy version, Mr Food Face.

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Lisa Marsh

Mom to two sets of twins.

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Another new favorite lunch box!

Sometimes you get in a rut and you have to change things up just to stay motivated to keep going.

I have been using our EasyLunchboxes since my oldest two were in preschool. I still have my original set, and they are still awesome. They are absolutely still my top recommendation for basic, easy, and cost effective lunch packing.

But, I have to be honest, after 6 years, of multiple lunches every day, for 180 days of school, I just got a little bored with them. I was having a hard time figuring out why I just couldn't get motivated for lunch packing this school year, and trying to figure out what I could do to get my groove back.

And I finally found it. New lunchboxes!

I've been using the Yumboxes for a couple weeks and I am having fun making lunches again. I love all the bright colors, and the little sections, and the fact that they are totally leakproof is just opening up a lot more easy lunch choices.

I've known about these boxes for a long time. We had a snack sized box for a long time, and I've loved it. But I resisted buying the lunch size. I had a few reasons, one being storage space and another being price. I make four lunches, so that adds up in terms of buying lunch containers. But I finally decided I was ready to try them out. At first I bought just one and used it for a week or two. And I fell in love. I don't know if I can even tell you exactly why, but they really do make it more fun. I love getting creative with what I can put in each little section, and there are things I am packing now that avoided packing before. 

When they say these don't leak, they aren't kidding. I have packed ranch dip, yogurt, applesauce, jam, ketchup, and more - without a single leak. The lid closes really snug - but it's not hard to close!

That's one of my criteria - it has to be easy to open and close. With one simple latch, all of my kids can easily open this and close it. I like that the lid is hinged - I was having a problem with one of my kids somehow leaving the lid off their EasyLunchbox altogether - so we had leftover lunch just loose and floating around in the lunch bag. But this one he closes. It's a great choice for little hands, or for someone with special needs who has a harder time opening and closing something.

The regular size comes in two different configurations - a four compartment and a six compartment. I got a couple of each. I love them both. People who pack a lot of sandwiches or other bigger things will want the bigger space in the four compartment box. If you pack more smaller nibbles, then the 6 compartment is great. I love both. 

The 6 compartment is especially awesome if you are having a hard time knowing what to pack, or if you have kids who are learning to pack their own lunch. Each section is labeled with what should go in it - protein, fruit, veggie, etc.

As far as my two initial reservations, I'm over them. They are more expensive, but they are really sturdy and well made. I know people who have had these for years and they say they are still like new. The good news on the size is that they are basically the same exterior dimensions as our other containers, so they fit in all of our lunch bags just perfectly. They store just fine, I just stack them or line them up vertically.

Also, they come in fun colors, which is never a bad thing. 

So - if you are looking to try something new - you can't go wrong with these!

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Lisa Marsh

Mom to two sets of twins.

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School Lunch Grocery List

One of the questions I get fairly often is about my grocery lists. What staples I keep on hand, what keep in my pantry, what do I buy for school lunches, etc. It is a topic that warrants several different blog posts, so for this one I am telling you about what is always on my grocery lists for packing school lunches.

I've mentioned in my lunch posts before that I try to follow the basic food pyramid or "My Plate" guidelines for my lunches.

That means in every lunch I try to have a protein, a fruit, a veggie, a grain, and usually some dairy. For my non meat eaters, the dairy is often also the protein. 

I don't always manage to get every category in there, but that is my goal. And I don't do it just because it makes a well balanced meal. Honestly I do it because following a simple formula actually makes it easier. 

Once you have a simple formula to follow, lunch packing is even easier to accomplish if you have the right things to work with, so my basic school lunch grocery list includes staples from each of those categories.

I'm lately really loving packing lunches in our Yumbox containers. If you get the 6 compartment version, it actually tells you the food group category in each section. That makes packing lunch really easy - just choose something from each category, and off you go. 

(Hint - these boxes are also a really great tool for when kids start packing their own lunch.)

My basic advice for stocking your fridge and pantry for easy lunch packing is to just make sure you have a little bit of variety from each the food groups, and you'll be good to go. With a few different choices in each group, you can make limitless combinations and lunch will never get boring. 

So here are my basic lists. Remember, I have four kids in school and a husband who often takes lunch, so I might keep more on hand than most. 

Grains:

  • Bread for sandwiches: I usually try to always have some kind of whole wheat bread at a minimum. Often I will also buy a few other kinds of breads for variety - maybe some rolls or biscuits, English muffins, bagels, etc.
  • Tortillas: I try to always keep a good supply of big flour tortillas. These are great for quesadillas, burritos, wraps, pinwheels.
  • Crackers: I like to keep a variety of crackers for packing in the "lunchable" type of lunches. My kids will get tired of the same cracker every week, so we rotate through them. Favorites are things like Ritz, Triscuit, and Wheat Thins.
  • Snack crackers: little savory snack crackers are a great side. We usually have some form of goldfish, or Cheez-it, cheddar bunnies, little rice crackers, etc. 
  • Granola bars: my kids seem to get tired of any one kind of granola or cereal bar really fast, so I'm always looking for different choices. 
  • Cereal: che erios or other 'snackable' type of breakfast cereals (chex, puffins)

Proteins:

  • Sliced lunchmeat: At least turkey and ham, and occasionally I will buy roast beef, pastrami, or salami. 
  • Blocks of cheese: I always have at least one big block of cheddar cheese in my fridge. We slice it for sandwiches, cut in cubes for more of a snack box type lunch, and shred it for quesadillas, nachos, burritos. If I'm feeling crunched for time then I will sometimes buy sliced and/or grated cheese. 
  • Packaged snack cheeses: cheese sticks, those round Babybel cheeses, we love the little cheddar Tillamoos from Tillamook, sometimes other shapes and sizes. 
  • Nut butters: Peanut butter, almond butter.  If you do have a nut free school, then you can substitute SunButter (sunflower seed butter) in anything that you would otherwise use peanut butter for. My kids can't tell the difference.
  • Yogurt: yogurt tubes, little cups of yogurt, or big cartons. I like to have a few flavors for easy packing, and I also always have plain yogurt. Plain yogurt is great with honey and berries, but it also makes a really great substitute for sour cream - you can give them tortilla chips and plain yogurt, and if you get a good strained greek yogurt then they are getting a decent amount of protein.

Fresh fruit:

I try to always have a little variety of fruit. Some of the year it's a lot of oranges and apples, depending on what's in season. 

  • Apples
  • Grapes (different colors)
  • Oranges (the little Cuties, or other easy to peel varieties)
  • Bananas
  • Grapes
  • If berries are in season, those are always on my list. 

Fresh veggies:

Veggies are seriously hit and miss here, as I'm sure they are with most kids. But my kids are getting better and better about it - after many years of putting it in their lunch. Each of my kids has a different type of raw veggie that they will consistently eat, so I try to always have each of their favorites.

This is the bag we love for packing lunches. It's the Going Places Thermal from Thirty-One. Click the picture to find it. 

This is the bag we love for packing lunches. It's the Going Places Thermal from Thirty-One. Click the picture to find it. 

  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers 
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Red and orange sweet bell peppers
  • Lettuce or other salad greens
  • Celery

Condiments and Spreads:

  • Jam or jelly or fruit spreads
  • Mayonnaise
  • Cream cheese

Snacky things and other stuff:

  • Cookies- we go for the less sweet varieties for school: grahams, animal crackers, most of the little Annie's bunny snack cookies.
  • Nuts
  • Dried fruits - raisins, cranberries
  • Fruit sauce - applesauce pouches

One of the fun things about the Yumbox is that little round spot in the middle. It's the perfect spot for a little treat. I will sometimes put a small cookie in there, or a chocolate covered almond. I don't think treats need to be on the must have staples list, but I do think it's nice to have a little something sweet in the lunch every now and then.

Enjoy!

A veggie filled lunch, from WhatLisaCooks.com
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Lisa Marsh

Mom to two sets of twins.

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Easy snack ideas for kids - and the whole family!

Figuring out healthy snacks that kids will actually eat can sometimes seem like one of the toughest challenges. It should be simple, right? It's just a snack for goodness sake!

But somehow it's not always that easy. They get bored, we get bored, we get in a rut that can be hard to get out of.

To try to help you out, I've pulled together a list of my favorite snack ideas for kids (and for the whole family).

I try to stay mostly healthy, but let's be honest, we're not all perfect and sometimes we just need to get something in them! We eat our fair share of goldfish crackers and chips around here too - it's not all veggies!

Easy snack ideas from WhatLisaCooks.com

It's a lot easier to stay with the healthy options if you've somewhat planned ahead and you've got what you need. Sometimes even when I am doing my meal planning and shopping lists I will try to jot down a few ideas for snacks for the week.

A lot of the things I serve for snacks are the same things I pack in lunches - just in smaller quantities. So if you look at my lunches, especially my no-sandwich lunches, you'll get plenty of ideas.

My first goal for snacking - especially after school - is to refuel their brains and bodies just enough to help them recover from their long school day, have enough energy to get through their homework or after school activity, but still be hungry again by dinner time. I don't know about all kids, but when my kids get home from school they are HUNGRY!

My second goal for snacks is that it needs to be quick and easy. I make enough meals, I don't need to be spending a bunch of time prepping snacks. I want stuff that's quick for me to get out and put on a plate. Prepping ahead of time helps with this, like keeping veggies already cut, fruit washed, and snack containers filled and organized. It's even better if the snacks are stored in a way that the kids can help themselves - I try to keep snack sized cheese, yogurts, veggies, and fruit at a level where my kids can reach.

I think snacks also need to be quick and easy for kids to eat. They want to get on with the fun. So foods that are bite sized and not too messy are ideal. 

I try to keep the same ideas in mind for snacks as I do for all other meals - a balance of protein, fruit, veggies, and carbs. Not all at the same time, but I just try to keep some balance in mind with the snacks I offer through the course of the week. 

Easy snack ideas from WhatLisaCooks.com

I do try hard to minimize the amount of pre-packaged snacks we have at home. Not because I have anything against them, there are plenty of healthy options, but mostly because that stuff gets expensive! My four kids can demolish a box of granola bars or applesauce pouches in minutes. I keep a good supply of those kinds of things available in our garage to throw in a snack bag for when we are out, but at home I aim as much as possible to not have packaged snacks. And, as you can see from some of the pictures, when I have the time I prefer to pack snacks to go as well. We've got lots of little containers and boxes that are great sizes for snacks on the go. 

One of my favorite things to do for snack time, and sometimes even lunch when we are home, is to just put out a platter or cutting board with a variety of choices. It's easy for me, and I've found that my kids will actually eat better if they have a little control over the choices. For lunch I will tell them they have to choose a veggie and a protein, for snack time I will just let them have whatever they want off the plate. 

Now, for my list of go-to snacks:

Easy snack ideas from WhatLisaCooks.com

Fresh Fruit:

We love all kinds of fruit, but here are some of our favorites:

  • Apples
  • Oranges or Mandarins - ask the produce guy for whatever is easiest to peel
  • Grapes (try freezing them too - a great treat for hot summer days!)
  • Berries, my kids go nuts for any kind of berries. 
  • Bananas
  • Avocados - my girls like to fill the center with soy sauce and scoop them with a spoon, or we love avocado spread on toast or bagels.

Fresh (raw) Veggies:

For some reason my kids are much more willing to eat raw veggies than cooked. Fine by me. It's easier. I try to keep a variety in the fridge so I can serve a selection that will include something for everyone. 

  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Cucumbers
  • Tomatoes
  • Sweet peppers - especially red and orange
  • Zucchini
  • Sugar snap peas
Easy snack ideas from WhatLisaCooks.com

Dried fruits & veggies:

These are great because they keep longer, and more and more stores are offering a wider variety of dried things. 

  • Raisins
  • Dried cranberries
  • Dried strawberries
  • Dried blueberries
  • Any freeze dried fruits - these are crunchy, instead of chewy like normal dried fruits. You can get all kinds - apples, bananas, strawberries, mango, etc. I usually get them at Trader Joe's, but I've seen a wide variety at Whole Foods, and sometimes at Costco.
  • Apple sauce, or any other kind of fruit sauce. 
  • Seaweed snacks
  • Dried veggie chips
 
snack box with ham, cheddar cheese and apples.

Dairy:

  • Snack sized cheeses. For snacking it works best to either have pre-packaged cheeses like Babybel or string cheese, or just take a few minutes once a week to cut a big block of cheese into cubes or sticks. Small cubes are great for smaller fingers.
  • Yogurt tubes - from the fridge, or frozen. If I freeze them my kids think they are getting some kind of special treat
  • Milk. Yes, sometimes just milk. A cup of milk has 8 grams of protein. It's a great way to quickly get a kid fueled up with some protein and natural sugars. I don't even mind a little chocolate milk for those occasions when they really need a quick boost of energy - I usually try to keep a handful of chocolate milk boxes in my car, in case someone is especially hangry at school pickup. 

Other Proteins:

  • Ham, turkey, salami, chicken - sliced or cubed
  • Boiled egg
  • Nuts
  • Nut butters - great on celery or crackers, or I have one that will just eat a spoonful.
  • Cubes of baked tofu
  • Mini hot dogs, or a regular dog cut into bites.
  • Tuna salad with crackers. I like to mix in shredded cheese when I make tuna for the kids.

Baked goods:

Homemade baked goods are perhaps the ultimate in after school snacking. They will create fond memories that last forever.

  • Muffins: you can pack a lot of goodness into homemade muffins. I make extra and keep them in the freezer. Mini muffins are great for snacking.
  • Quick breads - banana bread, zucchini bread, pumpkin bread.
  • Whole grain bread & rolls. A little butter or jam on a nice multi-grain roll or slice of bread is a great snack! I have a recipe here for a super quick biscuit that my kids just love. A slice of a really good quality multi-grain bread has 4-5 grams of protein.
  • Cookies. In moderation of course, but you can actually cut back the sugar quite a bit in a lot of cookie recipes, or swap it for honey, and you have something much healthier.
  • Pizza rolls (here's how I do them), or any other kind of savory baked item. 

Other Grains & Carbs:

  • Lots of different kinds of regular crackers - you know, Ritz, Triscuits, etc. 
  • Of course we also do the usual kid favorites - cheese crackers, animal crackers.
  • Granola bars, cereal bars, breakfast bars
  • Rice cakes
  • Mini bagels
  • Graham crackers
  • Rice crackers
  • Sesame crackers
  • Toast
  • Tortilla chips
  • Packaged lower sugar cookies - little mini graham cookies, animal crackers, etc.
  • Dry cereal - a bowl of dry Cheerios, Chex, or other low sugar cereal
  • Popcorn

Dip & Spreads:

Some kids love dipping, so dips can be a great snack with veggies, crackers, or bread.

  • Ranch dip
  • Hummus
  • Bean dip - I like to just do refried beans heated with some shredded cheese. You can add a little salsa if your kids like a little spice. 
  • Peanut butter, or other nut butter
  • Spreadable cheeses
  • Guacamole - sometimes I buy the little single serving containers, or it can be just as easy as mashing up an avocado with a fork and adding a bit of salt and lemon juice. 

Other ideas:

  • Smoothies & milkshakes. Really the possibilities are endless. These are great for busy on-the-go type of days. Sometimes I will make a really loaded smoothie and take them in the car for pickup, if we are running around to activities. 
  • Quesadillas - cut in strips for easy munching
  • Simple sandwiches. If you have a few kids, you can make one simple sandwich, like a toasted cheese or a PB&J, and cut it in quarters. A quarter of a sandwich with a few sliced apples is a nice little snack.
  • Leftovers - a small bowl of dinner leftovers is about as easy at it gets. Not a full meal sized serving, but just enough to tide them over. A little bit of leftover pasta, a cup of soup, a bowl of rice...

Get creative!

You don't have serve the "typical" snack foods just because it's snack time. Anything they like to eat, and you are ok with them eating, makes for a fine snack. Just serve it in a snack sized portion, rather than a full meal portion. 


snack ideas from WhatLisaCooks.com
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Lisa Marsh

Mom to two sets of twins.

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