Colleen Houck

“I took hold of that scourge -filled ship and crushed it between my limbs, hurtling it into the second sun, the red one that gave me strength. But I was too late." Terraformer

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  • The Five Mistakes I Made With My Instant Pot

    July 20, 2020

    First of all, what’s the Insta-Hype?

    So I’m one of those people who only JUST got herself an Instapot. Also, I know it’s probably Instant-pot or Instant Pot. Yep, I just checked. It’s Instant Pot. I don’t like it. It should be Instapot. Or Inst-A-Pot. Wouldn’t that be cooler somehow? Am I the only one who thinks it should be rebranded? Well, let me tell you about the lessons I learned using the Instant Pot and the mistakes I made along the way.

    Anyway, I digress. I didn’t get the hype. I kinda still don’t. See, I think kinda like Insta should be a word. Why isna it? Huh? “Why did I need to buy an InstaNT Pot?” I asked the ladies at church potlucks. Especially when I already had, count ’em, not one, not two, but three different sizes of crockpots AND a plugin turkey roaster AAAANNND two different sizes of rice cookers? I mean…did I REALLY need to carve out a special new spot on my already burdened shelf for a brand new appliance?

    Did George Forman need to make some room? Did I have to learn how to assemble my rarely used food processor parts instead of leaving them scattered along the shelf? Well, the answer was, yes. You see, I’m the type of person who has five old school ice cream machines stored in her pantry just so my family can have a proper ice cream competition come reunion time. Do you think I’m going to let a niggling problem like a lack of shelf space stop me from adding a small kitchen appliance? My husband would like to think so. But, in actuality, no.

    So, buy an Instant Pot, I did.

    What Did I Cook First?

    Probably what everyone cooks first. Soup. Did it turn out well? Eh. My favorite soup of all time is split pea with ham and/or bacon. Preferably both. The meatier the better in my opinion. I used the soup/stew feature and the soup came out…how do I describe it…baby food-ish. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t what I thought it would be.

    What I missed the most was the lack of viewability which made it a bit of a nail-biter for me. I wanted to control the stopping point in the cooking process. The machine was telling me when it was done and there was no stirring of the product which was irritating mentally. I like fussing with things.

    The end result was gummy and, like I said, it had the consistency of baby food, which isn’t at all the way I like my pea soup. I prefer it a bit chewy and the peas to be recognizable. Not that baby food can’t be good, I just enjoy more stew-like soup.

    Here’s another thing about me. I don’t like experimenting. I like it to work right the first time. Better technology is supposed to make things easier or faster or taste better. This didn’t feel that way at all to me. The time it took to heat up, pressure off, and cook didn’t feel like it was saving me a ton of time. At least not with pea soup. Having said that, I didn’t exactly follow the advice of the many skilled Instant-Pot chefs out there either. I just threw in my normal ingredients, dialed soup, and let it do its thing.

    Other Failures

    After that was a failed asparagus steaming attempt when I realized that steaming required unpressurized cooking. Who knew? I bought an accessory kit and pondered the possibility of cheesecake but talked myself out of that deciding that I definitely needed to master the basics before attempting a cake of any type.

    I was fairly successful with a pot roast and found it did save time. But I was vastly unhappy with the veggies, preferring them roasted in the oven. Next, I proceeded with a pot of chili, and that was OKAY. Finally, I decided it was time to tackle oatmeal and I was going to do it properly this time. I was going to Google it.

    The Oats

    In preparation, I bought the good kind of oats. The spendy kind. There wasn’t going to be any cheaping out here. If I was going to make an effort, it was going to be the right kind of effort. But at the store I found too many options. Oh Bob’s Red Mill, what have you done? I knew Instant Oatmeal was out. I wanted Steel Cut. But then I saw these Organic Extra Thick Hearty and don’t even talk to me about the Gluten-Free options or Scottish. I bought one of each.

    For my first attempt, I followed the advice of the Detoxinista and not because I’m trying to Detox. Her’s was just the first one with lots of stars that popped up. I used the hearty oats for that one, added the salt, the two cups of water to one cup of milk, chopped up two apples, added cinnamon, and behold, I got a delicious batch of oatmeal!

    I also had a huge fight with my husband. Why? I’ll tell you. Not because I like to air dirty laundry, but because I learned something from it, both as a person in a relationship and as the owner of an Instant Pot.

    Instant Pot Lesson One-Warm Counting Backwards

    So the delicious oatmeal I’m describing was done cooking and was in the warm cycle. As described in the recipe, I was waiting for it to depressurize on its own and the machine was counting down or up I suppose, adding minutes. Since I never really read instruction manuals unless I have a problem, I wasn’t entirely sure why it was doing this.

    I’d been hoping that the oatmeal would be done for my mom before she headed out to work but it went from thirteen to eighteen. She couldn’t wait any longer and headed out the door. The hubby came in the kitchen, asked what was going on and after I described the oatmeal, proceeded to open the lid.

    My next mistake may not have been with the instant pot but it was certainly a relationship error. I panicked and screamed at him, calling him an idiot among other things.


    Now, in my defense, back in my late teens, I used to work in a grocery store deli that used huge pressure cookers for fried chicken and I have a very vivid memory of an employee forgetting to release the pressure valve and opening the lid. It wasn’t a pretty picture.

    Once my hubby was done being offended, I realized the Instant Pot wouldn’t have opened if it was still under pressure. Then I figured out the counting backward thing must have meant it was on a warming cycle and it was done and was now safe to open.

    Instant Pot Lesson Two-Focus on the Positives

    Here’s the relationship bonus lesson for those of you in a long term relationship. You know the saying that goes something like, “When you date someone, keep your eyes wide open and when you get married, keep your eyes wide shut?” Huh…just looked that up and it appears that its a Benjamin Franklin quote. Who knew?

    Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards.

    Benjamin Franklin

    Anyway, after my argument with my husband, I was still upset because he wasn’t getting why I was alarmed or that he could have destroyed the house (not really, I was over-reacting). I stomped upstairs, thinking about all the other things he did that bothered me, making a giant list, and using it to tell myself that it meant I must not be a priority for him.

    For some reason, I started thinking about rose-colored glasses. The eyes wide open and half shut thing made me think of glasses and perspective. When we date, we see only the good things and the potential of the other person. It’s like looking at them through a pair of rose-colored glasses. Then, when we’ve lived with them a long time, we switch out those rose-colored glasses for say, a yellow-tinted pair, that shows only the faults and weaknesses.

    Neither view is an accurate image, but surely, keeping the rose-colored pair in place is the better option. Looking for the good and positive things about your spouse, remembering why you got married, takes effort. It’s easy to see the faults and weaknesses. Who knows those weaknesses and can point them out better than a wife or a husband?

    Long story short, I ended up apologizing and told him I freaked out because of the chicken thing. The countdown warmer on the Instant Pot will come up again. Stay tuned.

    Instant Pot Lesson Three-Make Sure Your Appliances Are Cleaned Properly

    A couple of days later I wanted to try to make oatmeal again but this time with peaches and steel-cut oats. The apple oatmeal was a hit but it didn’t last long so this time I wanted to double the recipe. INSTANT POT MISTAKE ONE.

    At least I think that was an instant pot mistake. But let me get back to the pot. After the first oatmeal, I attempted split pea soup again, and once again, it came out a bit too mushy. My mom did the dishes and she has a thing against using the dishwasher.

    She hates the oven and cooktop too and LOATHES the drawer microwave. We have a beautiful custom-built, brand new kitchen with state of the art JennAir appliances. I think that’s the problem. She’s scared of them. I can program my oven to cook with my phone. I love my induction cooktop.

    But my mom was born in 1950 and she was a housewife in the ’70s. The dishwasher, with no knobs in sight, is a mystery to her. I’ve taught her how to use it many times but she refuses to learn. Her cell phone she tolerates, barely, but the dishwasher, no way. She washes everything by hand, including the Instant Pot pot. As a result, it had a tiny bit of residue left on the bottom.

    Now I’m not talking about…this.

    Image Credit: Joe Lingeman

    There was only a teeny-tiny bit. I would never have used it otherwise and I might actually be over exaggerating it regardless.

    It might have had nothing to do with my eventual problem. There were a lot of other potential contributing factors. Still, I ignored it and proceeded to make my oatmeal. That was the real INSTANT POT MISTAKE ONE. I needed to properly clean the pot.

    I’m also a big of an organizational freak. It’s much easier people, and this is how I preach it to my hubby, to clean the appliance properly, BEFORE, you put it away, and for heaven’s sake, put it the right place so it can be found again. That includes beaters, Kitchen Aids, Crock pots or giant Turkey Roasters.

    Now, most of you are thinking, Colleen, these items are too large to go missing, and you’re right. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found things stacked on top of other things. This is how scratches happen. I’m the type of girl who puts all attachments in zip bags so as not to lose them. I mean, do I have to draw circles and use a label maker? What gives?

    If I went to all the trouble to carefully line my pantry shelf in the first place and spent several months drawing plans with measurements for each appliance in the pantry, then I expect a certain level of basic skill in kitchen usage. Otherwise, it’s hands-off. Especially when I can’t locate the beaters.

    Mistake Alert-Don’t Double the Recipe

    I know I already said it, and doubling the recipe may or may not have been a mistake but I wanted more oatmeal and the pot can hold more so what’s the problem? My guess is all the stuff on the bottom of the pot causes issues. Surely someone else out there has a big family to feed. I don’t. At least not at present. But I like cooking in large quantities to save myself time. Is this a problem for anyone else? Can you cook more oatmeal than the standard? INSTANT POT MISTAKE TWO-Don’t Double. At least not until I know what I’m doing.

    Instant Pot Lesson Four-All Knowledge Isn’t Equal-Liquids Aren’t Either

    I know all you Instant Pot people are shaking your heads right now. You’re thinking…her husband isn’t the idiot. It’s her! And, you’re right. I didn’t do my Instant Pot research, watch YouTube videos, or read blogs. In fact, I just now learned what Pot-in Pot meant.

    What the heck? How did you guys even figure that out? Did you take a class? Who taught you how to do that? Is there an Instant Pot guru out there teaching everyone about glass bowls inside the pots that protect your delicious culinary goods? Is it in the manual I didn’t read? I feel like I missed the season of a show everyone else is talking about around the water cooler.

    So here’s what I did. I wanted peaches and cream oatmeal and because of COVID-19 and a hearty food storage backup, I have a ton of powdered milk. So…after adding my oatmeal first (POSSIBLE INSTANT POT MISTAKE THREE), my salt, cinnamon, peaches, and water, I added in enough powdered milk to make the whole thing super creamy, (INSTANT POT MISTAKE FOUR) then stirred it all together, and turned it on.

    You guys know what happened next.


    I didn’t even know this was possible.

    Immediately, I googled it and found a helpful blog post at Kristine’s Kitchen. She described the problem and I quickly realized it was likely I’d made one of several mistakes. After canceling the cycle, I stirred the contents, hoping that would do the trick and started it up again.


    I repeated the process with fingers crossed.


    Nope. I knew I now had no choice but to abandon all hope. Canceling the cycle a third time, I sent mom to work again with a different breakfast, and proceeded to lift the pot out of the machine, burning my hands and spilling not all but a good enough portion of the hot milk onto myself and the floor just as my husband walked into the kitchen.

    He helped me mop it up and then went to get cereal, leaving me to figure out the rest which still wasn’t enough of an effort for me to be happy with since I’d now been busy with the machine for an hour.

    After twenty minutes of cleaning the charred pot, draining the milky contents from the peaches and oatmeal, I filled the pot with water and replaced the solids, then restarted the pot. This time, it cycled through.



    Instant Pot Lesson Number Five-Just Because You Think You Know Something, Don’t Assume

    By this time, my breakfast had been postponed for far too long, so when the clock started counting down like it had a few days before when my hubby cracked the Instant Pot lid, I figured I’d go for it.

    The countdown clock only said six but the oatmeal had already partially cooked twice before, so I figured it had absorbed plenty of water by that time. I tried to open the lid. It was locked. That meant it was still under pressure.

    Now, nowhere on any of the, okay, two, blogs, I’d read on the subject, did it say that oatmeal pressure was unlike any other pressure. It only said they recommended, that the pressure release naturally so the oatmeal could absorb all the liquid. I had NO IDEA what was going to happen next was even a possibility.

    I pushed the valve to release the pressure.

    Now I don’t know if any of you were ever as dumb enough to try this as I was. If you were, I don’t need to describe to you the ensuing mess or remind you of how you will never, ever, ever do such a thing again. But, for the rest of you who have never released the pressure on a pot of oats, let me tell you what happens.

    Normally, when you release steam pressure, steam comes out. Occasionally, juices of some type also sputter out into the plastic juice catcher cup, but, honestly, I’ve never had to remove that to even clean it, and, as you know from previous paragraphs, I’m a bit fastidious when it comes to cleaning.

    With oatmeal, what emerges from the pressure valve can only be described as a relentless, crackling eruption of the most diabolically, gelatinous sputum from hell. It covered the counter, the floor, the cutting board, the toaster, the cupboards, the refrigerator, my hair, shoulders, face, and shirt, the dogs who ran away yelping, and then floated in the air for several seconds before settling on every surface, slicking it with a slimy, shining-wet, deliciously peach-flavored coating.

    As I stood there, dripping steaming-hot oatmeal, contemplating the enormity of this fifth and final terrible INSTANT POT MISTAKE, with my husband calmly watching from the kitchen island, still spooning cold cereal into his mouth, there was nothing I could do or say.

    He stood up and handed me a spoon.

    We tasted the mess in the pot.

    It was pretty good.

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    Author Bio
    Colleen Houck

    New York Times Bestselling author Colleen Houck is a lifelong reader whose literary interests include action, adventure, paranormal, science fiction, and romance. When she's not busy writing, she likes to spend time chatting on the phone with one of her six siblings, watching plays, and shopping online. Colleen has lived in Arizona, Idaho, Utah, California, and North Carolina and is now permanently settled in Salem, Oregon with her husband and a huge assortment of plush tigers.