Real Mac & Cheese in the Instant Pot

This post contains affiliate links. As always, I only recommend products I truly believe in or desperately want to try.

This is a crazy easy alternative to boxed mac and cheese.

While it’s not a health food, it is REAL food with real ingredients and definitely tastier than the microwave version.

And guess what you cook it in? That’s right…my favorite thing: the Instant Pot (affiliate link). Are you tired of hearing about this appliance yet? Sorry….not sorry. I can’t help raving about something that saves me SO much time. *note: if you want a normal size portion, you are going to want to half this. I supersize everything.

Real Mac & Cheese Instantly

5 cups elbow macaroni noodles

4 cups water

2 cups half and half (or whole milk)

2 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1 tsp dry mustard

1/2 tsp nutmeg

4 tbls. butter

1 cup half and half (or whole milk)

5 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Spray the inner pot with cooking spray and stir in 5 cups uncooked noodles, 4 cups water, 2 cups half & half, 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, 1 tsp dry mustard and 1/2 tsp nutmeg. Give it all a good stir, close the pot and seal the vent. Push manual 7 minutes or HIGH pressure 7 Minutes depending on your model. When the timer beeps, do a quick pressure release (QPR). (be careful, this spurts up pretty high so I throw a dishtowel over it.) Next stir in 4 tbls. butter, 1 cup of half & half, and 5 cups of shredded cheese.

That’s it….shouldn’t take more than 25 minutes from start to finish. Enjoy!

Just for Women: Part 1

TMI ahead: If you are a guy, or squeamish, or not open to, well, open-ness, you might want to stop here. WARNING: THIS POST IS NOT ABOUT CHOCOLATE. (The truth is, I crave chocolate all month long, not just at that “particular time”, but there is a traditional association with chocolate and a women’s menstrual cycle so I went with it.) You have been duly warned.

I have always had a miserable time with my period. The medical consensus is that I probably have endometriosis or a similar condition that causes severe and extended symptoms. It’s not a fun time (and it lasts a long time). I decided years ago that I was going to find the absolute best menstrual solutions. I stubbornly believe women (or any consumer really) shouldn’t be satisfied with sub-par products simply because they are mainstream. So if there was something better out there, in the name of Aunt Flo, I wanted to know about it!

I’m here to tell you, over the last decade I have tried it all: multiple brands and types of disposable pads and tampons, disposable menstrual cups, several different reusable menstrual cups, and multiple brands of reusable pads. Now, every woman is different and we all have different needs. But my experience has been that reusable options are DRAMATICALLY better than their disposable counterparts.

Years ago, I switched to a reusable menstrual cup and I would never, ever go back. It’s more comfortable, convenient and reliable. It offers substantial financial savings and less risk of TSS. It’s easier to store and travel with (one small item rather than a big box of supplies). It’s a wonderful choice from an environmental perspective. There have been many concerns about traditional disposable products and I have decided I am much more comfortable with medical grade silicone than bleached cotton blends that could cause irritation or even encourage bleeding. There are truly more benefits than I have time to list. The only negatives that I can think of are 1) there is a learning curve and it may require some practice and 2) you sometimes have to shop around to find the right product, which can be pricey. You will still be saving a ton, though! Check out this post at Bargain Babe that talks about the possible financial savings of reusable feminine care products!

I want all of my friends to know about ALL of the options and I am happy to answer any questions you may have; just email me at leahprescott@gmail.com. I am happy to point you toward resources that will give more info about the different products available. In Part 2, I will share a review of a product I am so excited to share with you. I have been given a FemmyCycle Cup for testing and review and I can’t wait to tell you about my experience. It has all the benefits I love plus some innovative features and options that are brilliant!

Sibling Day

Sunday was Sibling Day, and on that day my sister and her husband gave me an unexpected gift. They let me join them for the birth of my nephew. It was a scary, sweet, and breathtaking moment that I will never forget. The experience gave me a new appreciation for almost EVERYONE. I appreciated my mama, for going through that four times. I appreciated my dad for being with her and caring for her. I appreciated my sister for letting me step into that private moment and for her amazing strength and calm. I appreciated her husband for being there for her with so much love. Also, my appreciation for my husband is magnified because I truly didn’t understand the enormity of experiencing childbirth as the support person (I wasn’t even in that role myself, just observing it really). Now I understand a little bit better how that must feel.

hanlove

I am sure I will soon post again about my sweet nephew Han. I am overwhelmed with amazement. He is so precious, beautiful, smart and strong. I am also amused at my desire to tell everyone, even strangers, about this new addition to our family. (I have seen this second hand, but never experienced this myself.) Happy Birth week, dear baby Han! And thank you Caroline for the best sibling gift ever!

Intro to Amazon Warehouse Deals

Happy Friday!

In case you haven’t noticed, my hobby is finding deals and shopping. My parents just pointed out to me that this started when I was a young teen and I would call a list of stores regularly in search of hard to find Ty Beanie Babies. Then my mom, tybless her heart, would drive me around to buy them! This memory really cracks me up, but I would like to point out that my children still love Beanie Babies so that garbage bag in the attic wasn’t an entirely useless investment. (Also, hello? I loved shopping way before that age.)

Because I spend a disproportionate amount of time searching for deals (even those I have no real intention of buying), I wanted to share one of my favorite bargain spots, the Amazon Warehouse. You will want to bookmark this page because it is, for some reason, hard to navigate to at times. Amazon Warehouse Deals contains returned, discounted, used and possibly damaged items. There is usually an accurate description of the condition of the item and it is still covered by Amazon’s Return Policy.

My favorite way to navigate Amazon Warehouse is simply to search for my favorite brands or to browse an entire category like shoes. Within that category, you can search by brand or percentage of discount using the links on the left bar. For instance, I sometimes search by Women’s Shoes, 70% off or more. Shoes are frequently returned and can’t be sold as brand new even if they appear to have never been worn or tried on. Most of my shoes are from Amazon Warehouse Deals, this has been my favorite Amazon shopping tip so far.

Some other examples of deals I have gotten at the Warehouse:

Sold by: Warehouse Deals, Inc
$12.27(regularly $92)
vb tote
$65.33 (list price $219, regular Amazon price $89.99)
$19.79 (regularly $160)
Just as a reminder, deals found in the warehouse DO fluctuate in price, sometimes dramatically. So I usually keep $500 or so of interesting products in my cart just seeing what they will do. It becomes a bit of a gamble because sometimes I watch prices steadily go down (even lowering multiple times a day) only to shoot right up (or sell out) while I am waiting, mesmerized.
So that’s an introduction to the Amazon Warehouse Deals, I hope you find it helpful!

Flour-Free Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

We have had a fun spring break that has been full of relaxing, family time, waiting around for a nephew to be born, and playing at the park. Before school starts tomorrow, we thought we would have one more treat-fling. These are crazy-easy, surprisingly delicious, grain-free cookies! I stumbled across an easy recipe for peanut butter cookies nearly thirteen years ago, and have repeated it ever since. Tonight I tweaked it a bit and we think it’s the best version yet!

This post has some affiliate links, so that I can make a few pennies off your purchases, at no additional cost to you! Enjoy your cookies!

PBcupcookies

Flour-Free Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

1 cup Peanut Butter

1 cup Almond Butter

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1 cup dark chocolate chips

4 tbls. additional sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 375 °F
  2. Beat 1 cup Peanut Butter, 1 cup Almond Butter, 2 cups sugar and 2 eggs together thoroughly in a large bowl.
  3. Gently stir in 1 cup chocolate chips
  4. Form dough into balls and roll each in additional sugar.
  5. Bake for 10-12 minutes and allow to cool thoroughly.
  6. Enjoy! Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

How we do Dinner: Part 1

Any links I have added to this post are Amazon Affiliate links and they help me continue posting great content! Thank you for your support.
  • Omelettes: We do a lot of breakfast for dinner:eggs/grits/fruit or omelettes & fruit (I spent a long time googling omelettes and finally found a perfect photo tutorial on how to make them easily, but they removed the link). Options: sausage, bacon bits, onions, peppers, tomatoes, cheese, broccoli etc. I have also made omelette kits and put them in the freezer with small bags of fresh veggies/shredded cheese/cooked sausage/onions and put it all in a big ziplock to grab in a hurry. This makes it crazy easy and  cheap because you have just enough of everything right when you need it.
  • Oatmeal Bar: Sometimes we even do a “gourmet” oatmeal bar with tons of toppings. Yes, I give my kids a bowl of oatmeal for dinner but if they have a small sprinkle of chocolate chips and some sliced strawberries they say “best dinner ever”. The secret to delicious oatmeal is a big plop of real butter and a drizzle of half and half or whole milk/cream. Options: fruit, brown sugar, nuts (huge bag of sliced almonds from Costco lasts forever and goes into lots of our recipes), coconut, rainsins/craisins, chocolate chips, peanut butter.
  • Nacho Night: This is also an effort free meal that somehow gets my kids very excited. We often do Nacho Night on a blanket on the floor and have movie night, so that could be a big part of the appeal! Aldi has tortilla chips for like $1.20 a bag so we are never without these. Options: shredded chicken (canned works), beans, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, veggies, ground beef. Nachos “outside the box” can include breakfast toppings (my friend Katy does sausage, eggs, cheese on nachos), or chicken salad with chips (super delicious and lower carb than chicken salad sandwiches). One final touch that we love is serving in food baskets, just like you’d get at a burger joint or hot dog stand. It makes it so much more fun!
  • Just add a smoothie! When we have slim pickings for dinner (the end of leftovers, or something my kids aren’t thrilled to eat), we add a smoothie to round out our meal. After years of smoothies, my kids still LOVE them and I can make it healthy to add  to a not-so-fab meal OR decadent to add to a healthy but not exciting meal (big spinach salad with tons of toppings is great with a chocolate peanut butter smoothie on the side). This is when having a vitamix is 100% worth it for us. Seriously, it’s like a magic bullet at our house: “We are having salad……*crickets…..AND A SMOOTHIE” *big cheers* (affiliate link).
  • Fruit side/treat: Another thing we have been doing is swapping a side out for fruit. So say we have grilled chicken and rice as our main course. Instead of adding broccoli, we add fresh pineapple which is a big treat for us. Suddenly our meal is exciting and  I have found this really helps me not feel like I need dessert also, so it’s a win/win.

Like I said, these are not original ideas or revolutionary ones, but they are in our current rotation and are working for us now. Cooking for a family gets so tiring with all the other obligations of parenting, so anything that makes it easier is valuable in my book! I’d love to hear any ideas you have and I’ll be adding Part 2 soon!

What’s on my Kindle

Please note that these links are Amazon Referral Links and that I will receive a small commission on purchases made through this link. Thanks for helping to make my blog dreams come true!

I was delighted to discover one of my favorite books from childhood is available for free for the Kindle: Freckles by Gene Stratton Porter.

This is a beautiful, soulful story of an orphan who finds his home in the Limberlost and falls in love with an “angel”. The theme of redemption is moving and the vivid descriptions of the swamp creatures, birds, and foliage are mesmerizing.

The book is free, but I discovered that you can purchase the audio for many of the free classics for a few dollars (in this case $3). The girls and I have been listening to this together and the narration is wonderful; the reading level on this is probably 7th grade and up but younger listeners will enjoy. You have to grab this book for the incredible vocabulary if nothing else! Also check out these titles (and many more) by the same author:

Freckles

A Girl of the Limberlostfreckles

Or the Gene Stratton Porter 10 Volume Collection for only $1.99!

Nothing can quite take the place of the gorgeous antique copies of these titles that I was lucky enough to be gifted, but I do love digital books also! Remember that you can download the Kindle app for free for your phone or right now Amazon has some great prices on Kindles, check them out here!

Friday Favorites: Fancy Edition

This week Friday’s Favorite is a flashback favorite to one of our favorite authors, Jane O’Connor.

I try not let my prissiness get out of control, but I’m really a girly girl at heart. Fortunately, my children seem to be a little more well-rounded; loving animals, sports, books, and still playing with dolls and wearing tutus occasionally. We all love the Fancy Nancy series by Jane O’Conner.Fancy Nancys

The illustrations are beautiful and the stories sweet. Not only does the series tickle a little girl’s pink funny bone, but it teaches a lot of great vocabulary words, even some basic French, while encouraging kindness and empathy. In Fancy Nancy we meet the Clancy family, and Nancy who feels it is “hard being the only fancy person in your family”. In Fancy Nancy Bonjour Butterfly Nancy apologizes to her mother for her behavior and learns that you must choose to have a good attitude even when faced with disappointment. The Clancy family learns about responsibility in Fancy Nancy and the Posh Puppy. One of our favorites, Fancy Nancy and the Splendiferous Christmas talks about the importance of family and establishing traditions and memories.

The series isn’t just about glittery boas and lacy accessories, Fancy Nancy Explorer Extraordinaire delves into plants, insects, and exploration from a “fancy” perspective. I love how it shows girls can be strong and feminine at the same time. We love these books and recommend you look to Jane O’Conner’s many titles for your daily fancy fix!

Another Great Vitamix Deal

Another great Vitamix deal!

The first coupon code should apply automatically, if not type in: factorysale3716
Then apply coupon code: 06-004229

This should bring it down to about $280 plus tax, which is a fantastic price.

Check out my review here. We use our Vitamix all the time. This is a refurbished model, but Vitamix usually does a great job with those. Look at this perfectly creamy banana “ice cream”! Just frozen bananas, milk, and a dash of vanilla! Yum.

banana cream

Name Bubbles Coupon Code

Even though we homeschool, we have been using Name Bubbles personalized stickers for years. With identical twins, we tend to have issues keeping tracking of whose items are whose and these perfectly solve the problem. Name Bubbles has several combo packs that include laundry safe and dishwasher safe labels. I have never had a label come off or even start to show wear, even after dozens of trips through the dishwasher or washing machine. As a matter of fact, I have even pulled the laundry stickers off of outgrown items and re-used them on the bigger size with success! That’s impressive. If you think you don’t need name labels for your child’s stuff, I invite you to take a look at our Homeschool Lost & Found. The mountain of hoodies and lunchboxes says it all! Today only get 17% off with code LUCK!

Loaded (with Veggies) Potato Soup in the Instant Pot

This post contains affiliate links. As always, I only recommend products that I use or want to try for my own family.

If you are looking for a gorgeous recipe post with mouth-watering photos and fancy cooking terms like “roux” and “parboil”….well, then you are at the wrong blog.

If you are interested in a quick, healthy recipe that tastes good, then proceed.

This meal was my way of using up some veggies that needed to be eaten without having to run out for more ingredients. It’s amazing what I will do to avoid having to go to the grocery store on a Monday afternoon. So this is really Loaded with Veggies Potato Soup.

This was made in my Instant Pot and is incredibly easy to put together. If you don’t have an Instant Pot, I don’t know what else I can do to convince you. I’ve already raved all over Facebook, Pinterest and anywhere else I can think of. Check out my review here at EveryWomanBlog.com and then (affiliate link) head on over to Amazon and order one.

I just wish I had bought an Instant Pot sooner because I use it all the time.

Loaded Potato Soup in the Instant Pot

2 chopped onions

1 cup chopped carrots

1 cup chopped celery

1 head of fresh broccoli

lots of peeled, cubed potatoes (by lots I mean, about as many as I can put in the pot)

2 (14.5 oz) cans of chicken broth

salt, pepper, garlic, nutmeg

a dash of half and half

optional: chives, shredded cheese, and bacon

  1. Set Instant Pot to Saute and saute celery & carrots for about 5 minutes with some Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Or butter. Or both. Add onions and garlic and saute for another 5 minutes.
  2. Add potatoes and pour chicken broth over everything. Close lid, close vent, and set for Manual 5 minutes (or high pressure for 5 minutes).
  3. You can either open the IP and let the pressure release (QR) or let it release slowly (NR). Once pressure is released, open it and cream up your soup. To do this, you can use a stick blender, a regular blender, or be super ghetto like me and stick a hand mixer in there. Sure, scalding hot soup may splash at you, but, hey, you’re on the clock here. You can blend it up really creamy or leave lots of chunky pieces in there, it’s really your call.
  4. Add broccoli, give it a quick stir, close the lid, close vent and set it for Manual 1 minute then NPR. (this method leaves the broccoli a little on the crisp side. If you want it to be really blended in with your soup, do a little more time or add it earlier in the recipe. Or leave it on Keep Warm for awhile because you really can’t believe dinner is already done.)
  5. Add, salt, pepper, a dash of nutmeg, and some half and half to taste.
  6. Serve with cheese and, if you REALLY want to go wild, BACON.
soup

Friday Favorites: Health & Comfort Edition

This week has decidedly not gone how I’d hoped. I was nauseous all day Monday until Monday night, when things went downhill, but I’ll spare you the details. Thankfully, no one else seems to have been infected, and thankfully I am finally feeling nearly normal today. On top of the vomiting, (whoops, I said no details), I was feeling truly horrible because I couldn’t stomach coffee (or anything much) until this morning. If you know me at all, you know that a lack of coffee is not compatible with my lifestyle.

But no one wants to hear about that, so I thought I would quickly share some of the things that help me feel better when I am under the weather. In the interest of full disclosure, please realize that I have become an Amazon partner, so I will receive a small (really, minuscule) compensation for any items purchased through my links. As ya’ll know I have been shamelessly raving about my favorite things for years, I just thought I would finally try to get a little cash flow from my role as consumer enabler. 

be kool

One day I was having a horrible migraine and couldn’t keep any meds down. My husband ran out and brought home these and they have been a life-saver. They aren’t recommended for kids, but there is a children’s version (which I have not purchased). I admit I have cut the adult size ones in half for feverish kids and they have helped but that’s obviously not medical advice from me. You would never receive medical advice from me. Never.

I am also a huge fan of a good heating pad, and I really love this one. Is it weird if I admit I use it like everyday? I don’t truly have chronic pain thankfully, but as a busy mom I feel like I am always in some kind of pain and this thing gets hot, fast. I actually ruined our bed because I used a heating pad too frequently when I was pregnant, but that’s a story for another day. For the kids, we like rice filled heating pads that you can make yourself and heat up in the microwave. Little Blue Boo has a great easy tutorial and if you haven’t checked out her blog-world, it’s amazing! If you want to make these heating pads therapeutic with Essential Oils please check with my friend Jessica, she can definitely help you! They also love this stuffed bear that we were gifted and it has held up great for three years of use. Thanks, Diane! These  Anti-Stress eye pillows are also fantastic and I keep one by my bed (if only the microwave was there I’d be all set).

I have never used Goody’s powder until this year, but I will always keep a stock of it now. Especially for those with a caffeine addiction, this is amazingly effective and quick. I thought it was weird to take powdered pain reliever, but results are results. We really have a lot more health related recommendations, but my morning blog time is coming to a close and it’s time to face our homeschool day. Thank you Lord for coffee and beautiful Fridays in the springtime! 3 John 1:2 “Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.

Have a great weekend!

Welcome to Chasing Santee, a blog about the sweet and simple things in life. Santee is my childhood happy place and I want this blog to be my happy place on the internet. I will be sharing homeschool insights, family favorites, household hints, simple recipes and an abundance of bargains. If you like to laugh, shop, eat, read, write or teach you will love it here!