Simple Meal Ideas with the Instant Pot and Dry Beans

Navy bean soup

Hello and welcome December! 🙂 I hope you had a blessed Thanksgiving. Today, we’re sharing a post from Anna Marie on Instant Pots which we think you’ll find helpful. –Sarah

Since the season for good sale prices on Instant Pots is coming up, I thought this would be a good time to share our experience with you. Perhaps you, like me, have seen “Instant Pot” recipes everywhere and wondered if they actually are worth the hype. I received one as a gift a couple years ago (this is the one I have, and it is Titus2’s Amazon’s Affiliate link, which Titus2 earns from qualifying purchases, see the Privacy Policy).

The Instant Pot is in use almost daily in our home. I like the ability to quickly cook frozen (yes—you don’t have to thaw) chicken breasts or thighs. It’s super handy to be able to make broth from beef bones or chicken carcases in less than three hours. And for making easy-to-peel “hard-boiled” eggs in a jiffy, it’s hard to top. But what I use it for the most is cooking dry beans. They don’t have to be soaked ahead, can be spiced in many different ways, and can be ready within an hour or two. Since they’re packed with healthy fiber, plant protein, and many essential minerals (including folate which is great for pregnancy!), they make for a truly nutritious “fast food”!

8 quart Instant Pot

Here are a few examples of dry beans that we like:

Small red beans or chili beans are delicious in chili or cooked with Mexican spices and served over rice or taco salad.

Spicy red beans over rice

Navy beans or small white beans are perfect for white chicken chili or navy bean soup! To make a delicious quick soup, I saute carrots, celery, and onion in the Instant Pot before adding in the dry beans, salt, pepper, bay leaves, and water or chicken broth. Once cooked, I mash part of the beans (a potato masher works well for this) and it’s ready to serve!

Garbanzo beans/chickpeas are perfect on salads, in soups, or made into hummus. Sometimes after cooking about 4 cups of these in lightly salted water, I will stir in a jar of Tikka Masala simmer sauce from Aldi and some precooked shredded chicken. This is great served over rice.

Pinto beans are a staple for burritos or Mexican side dishes, and I use a hand-held mixer to mash them right in the pot when they’re done cooking. Left whole, we enjoy them on taco salads or added into soups.

Black beans are great in a “Santa Fe Chicken” with cans of diced tomatoes/chilis, corn, spices, and shredded chicken served over rice. If you’re feeling adventurous, black bean brownies are actually pretty tasty and have been enjoyed here!

Lentils cook quickly and don’t need to be presoaked whether you have an Instant Pot or not, but I’m including them here anyway because they appear on our lunch table weekly in Sue Gregg’s Lentil Rice casserole. I like to make it in our Instant Pot because I can put all the ingredients in after breakfast, and set the timer to have it done at lunchtime.

The children love being my “bean sorters!”

As you probably noticed, we frequently enjoy various seasonings in our beans served over rice or another grain. There are so many variations you can do with this and we especially like it with some precooked shredded beef or chicken added (I keep bags of it in the freezer for this purpose). And don’t feel limited to rice as a base; quinoa, millet, or even riced cauliflower all work great, too!

Keeping some containers of cooked beans in the freezer is also very handy to add in to vegetable beef or chicken soups, or for easy main-dish salad toppings.

Cornbread is a popular side dish that we have with our Instant Pot bean dishes and soups. It’s not cooked in the Instant Pot although I’m sure some people probably do cook their cornbread that way. My go-to recipe is Sue Gregg’s blender cornbread which uses whole dry corn. It takes me about 5-10 minutes to get it in the oven and then it bakes for 30 minutes. The recipe is available on her site in a PDF download of sample recipes. Search for the text “sample recipes” on the homepage to find the PDF download link. The recipe is on page 63.


We buy our organic dry beans, dry corn, popcorn, wheat, oats, millet, etc. in bulk from Azure Standard and have been pleased with the quality and prices (disclosure: the Azure link is an affiliate link that is part of their “Share Azure” program. If you order through it I may receive a credit in my account. You could also just go directly to Azure Standard’s site; or, if you have a friend who orders from Azure, ask them if they have a Share Azure link you can use). I’m sure you can probably find these at your local grocery store or health food store as well.

Tikka Masala garbanzo beans and chicken over millet

So, is an Instant Pot a necessity? No. But we’ve found it to be a time saver for the uses I mentioned. We have the 8-quart size and I love having that size (larger meals and/or more leftovers), even though it takes a bit longer to come up to pressure than a smaller one. If you have a smaller family or cook lower volume, the 6-quart would likely be adequate. We have seen both sizes come up on very good sales (for example 8 quart around $60) during the holiday season in the past. And, of course, there are other brands of modern pressure cookers that would function in a very similar fashion.

God bless you as you seek to cook nutritious meals for your family!

Anna Marie

“But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate
of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation”
(1 Thessalonians 5:8).

Happy Thanksgiving From the Maxwells!

The Maxwell Family, Colorado 2019

“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18

God is always good always. There are always things we can thank God for.

Today especially, may we proclaim His goodness.

“Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his
wonderful works to the children of men! For he satisfieth the
longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.”
Psalm 107:8-9

We’re so grateful for God’s gift of eternal life through Jesus.

We’re grateful for the gift of family.

We’re grateful for you, our dear readers.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Maxwells

“O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good:
for his mercy endureth for ever” (Psalm 107:1).

Mayflower and Plymouth, UK

Recently a blog reader sent us a note and some photos we thought you would enjoy. Here’s what she said:

I am a blog reader from the UK. I loved seeing the books you suggested for Thanksgiving. I actually live on Plymouth UK, and we are preparing for the Mayflower 400 festival next year. I was walking past the Mayflower steps the other day and thought that you might like to see a couple of pictures of what it looks like. The first is close up with both flags. They have just built a new arch ready for next year.”

The second is a bit further away so you can see the houses behind it and the steps themselves.”

The last is the view out to sea which would have been what the pilgrims saw just before they set off.”

It was interesting to learn of the 400th year festival coming up and preparations for it. We especially liked the photo of what the pilgrims saw as they began their adventure into the unknown in search of a place where they could worship God in freedom.

Trusting in Jesus,

“But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall
worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh
such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him
must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24).

Maxwell Family Day

Back in September, Dad had the idea to host a Family Day. It would be in our backyard and involve games and a barbecue. Originally scheduled for early October but canceled due to inclement weather, we rescheduled for the second Saturday in November. The day arrived, with perfect weather for our Family Day.

Anna, Jesse, and Mary took responsibility to set up an obstacle course before the event start time. The creativity they used to skillfully design an awesome course took some effort, but the results worth it.

Setting up
Testing out riding the bike.

11am came, and families began to descend upon the backyard with little kids’ faces full of excitement and delight. We started out with some activities such as corn hole (loved watching Grandpa and Grandma do that with the kids) and Spike Ball, while some of the young moms and Gigi sat and talked.

From there, we moved to Cat and Mouse. Mom found the game online–a perfect combination for young and old. People stand in a circle, and then you pick two names. Ahead of time, Dad wrote everyone’s names down and had them folded in his pocket. One person is the cat another the mouse. They are blindfolded, and with people still forming a circle, the cat and mouse can begin wherever they like. Then, the mouse can take one big step in whatever direction, and when it’s done, it has to “squeak.” The cat, still blindfolded, can take one big step (in pursuit of the mouse), and when it’s done, it has to “meow.” The goal obviously being the cat catches the mouse. It caused lots of laughter as the blindfolded people moved around. Even the older ones got really into it, taking ginormous steps to stay away from the cat or in the attempt to catch the mouse.

Kyle with his sweet smile
Some people had great maneuvers to outwit others.
We found we had to use ear protectors while the mouse moved because of the crunchy leaves.
Mom and Daughter
When we were preparing for lunch, I saw these three guys, and I had to snap pictures. Adorable.
Joseph took the little bike for a spin, and he had a whole group of kids running after him.

After that, we enjoyed lunch together. The menu consisted of hot dogs, veggies, picnic eggs, chips, and dessert. Everyone pitched in to bring things.

Adorable Axton

Following lunch, the anticipated obstacle course began. The absolutely beautiful part of this was the older ones coming alongside the youngers to help them. The aunts and uncles were right there with the littles, cheering, walking next to them, and encouraging. That’s what teamwork is all about. The reverse was true too. The littles cheering the aunts and uncles and daddies and mommies along. Many wonderful memories were created on the Maxwell Family Day.

You had to jump over a ball (small for the littles and big for the older).
Then you had to shinny through the hole in the playset and crawl under the mesh.
Next up was to walk across a little board and then step from stump to stump (you could get off).
You had to balance your way across the pipe.
You had to place a bean bag on top of your head and circle each cone and bucket 2 x (and not lose the bean bag). Talk about dizzy!
Hop onto the bike and try to stay between the boards.
For us older ones, that little bike was a hard thing to ride. You had to ride it around the tree (in the background) and making a turn on that little bike was difficult.
Cheering onlookers
You had to hop with a balloon between your legs.
Love all the helpers!
Melanie did it and there was lots of cheering.

Maybe Family Day could become a tradition in your family. We loved it, and I’m quite certain it’ll be an annual event at the Maxwells.


“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and
in the power of his might” (Ephesians 6:8).

Feed My Starving Children

Recently I joined Christopher, Joshua, and Ruthanne as a Feed My Starving Children volunteer, packing nutritious meals for third world starving children. Christopher has done this with Joshua before, but this was Ruthanne and my first time. Grades K-2 require one adult per child. I was thrilled to be part of their team.

The whole Feed My Starving Children packing process is amazing with multiple stations set up in a gym type setting in a church where 8 to 12 people at each one pack meals consisting of vitamins, soy powder, dried vegetables, and rice—measured and weighed for individual packets. Packing is fast-paced, loud, and motivating. After all, we were packaging food that would feed starving children. 

I held the bag under the funnel for the ingredients to be added to, and Ruthanne weighed the bag. If it was overweight, she took some out, and if it was underweight, she put some in until it fell in the correct weight range. Christopher and Joshua manned the station where each bag is sealed. 

Our volunteer slot was for two hours but with training and cleanup, we probably packed meals for 1.25 hours. The group we were with packed enough meals to feed 167 children for one year. 

You can find out about Feed My Starving Children events in your area by visiting this link.

Note: One consideration is that the music is loud and not as conservative as many might prefer.

Trusting in Jesus,

“And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and
filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are
needful to the body; what doth it profit?” James 2:16 

Favorite Thanksgiving Books for Children

Happy Monday, y’all! Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and Anna Marie is sharing her favorite Thanksgiving books. There’s enough time for you to find a copy (either purchasing or maybe your local library has them!) to read with your kids or grandkids or nieces and nephews.

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to reflect on God’s blessings and focus on thankfulness. It’s also an incredible opportunity to talk with our children about the founding of our nation by a group of Christians who were determined to follow God as they saw laid out in Scripture. They were unwilling to compromise or subject their children to the influence of an ungodly culture. They were willing to endure hardship for the sake of Christ and sang praises to the Lord in the midst of situations I myself could hardly imagine. There are many examples of God’s hand in bringing them to America and providing Squanto to help them learn survival in the wilderness where they settled. We want to be recounting these stories to our children in the same spirit as Psalm 78:2-4:

“I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old: Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done.”

I love reading books to the children about Thanksgiving as it approaches but have had a really hard time finding those that give glory to the Lord or talk about the true reason for the Pilgrims coming. So far I’ve come across two that I really like and wanted to share with you.

This is the Feast

This is the Feast (Amazon links in this post are Titus2’s Amazon’s Affiliate link, and Titus2 earns from qualifying purchases, see the Privacy Policy), by Diane Z. Shore, has beautifully crafted, rhythmic flow to the poetic wording that describes the journey and settling of the Pilgrims. I feel like she very tactfully handles the realities of life on the Mayflower and the illnesses that took the lives of many through that first winter in Plymouth, not glossing over them but not being too graphic for young readers. Interspersed through the story are small doxologies of praise to the Lord, such as, “Thanks be to God, our Help and our Guide!” The illustrations are absolutely stunning, with vivid detail and color. I also like how basic identification of some of the trees and plants are woven in. All in all, I would say this is my favorite Thanksgiving book ever.

Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving

Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving (Titus2’s Amazon’s Affiliate link, see the Privacy Policy), by Eric Metaxas, is an amazing story of how God uses trials for His own purposes and glory! It follows the life of Squanto being kidnapped from his Patuxet village and sold as a slave upon arrival in Spain, purchased by monks who taught him about God, then sent him to England where he learned English before finally returning to his village ten years after his kidnapping—only to find that a plague had taken the lives of every Patuxet. He sorrowfully wondered why God would have allowed this when shortly after, the Pilgrims arrived and settled in Patuxet. Knowing their language and knowing the land, he was able to help them learn the best ways to hunt and cultivate. I don’t know how much of the story has been “enhanced,” but regardless, it is a good reminder that we don’t know what God might use trials in our lives for, and we can trust that He does indeed work all things together for good!

Another thing we learned about the pilgrims is that they loved to sing the Psalms, often versified. I’ve been enjoying singing some with the children such as Psalm 23 (see this Hymnary link) and Psalm 100 (Hymnary link). We also have been singing the verbatim Psalm 119 that we have been learning together. Singing Scripture back to God in worship is powerful!

Over the River and Through the Wood

Since I’m talking about Thanksgiving books, I’m also including Over the River and Through the Wood (Titus2’s Amazon’s Affiliate link, see the Privacy Policy), by Lydia Marie Child and illustrated by Matt Tavares. It has nothing to do with the Pilgrims but is a beautifully illustrated story based on the Thanksgiving-themed poem. Our children love following the family in their horse and sleigh over the frozen river and through snow-drifted woods to their grandparents’ house, and it is a perfect book to cuddle up and read on a cold day!

May you all have a blessed Thanksgiving season.

Because the LORD our God is good,
His mercy is forever sure.
His truth at all times firmly stood
And shall from age to age endure.

~Anna Marie

Gigi reading to the children

“Giving thanks always for all things unto God and
the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Ephesians 5:20

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