Simple Chili Mac (Instructions for Instant Pot, Crock Pot, or Stovetop)

This Simple Chili Mac is the reason you should make a double batch of chili. Leftover chili (or purchased canned chili) makes this recipe take about 5 minutes to throw together.

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Also? How did I ever live without an Instant Pot? I know, I know. So many of you told me I would love it for the amount of time and effort it saves, but I could not handle thinking about learning how to use a new appliance. Good grief. There was nothing to learn. Okay, there was a little bit more than nothing to learn. There was about ten minutes of learning involved.

But now I’m like, “Here, Instant Pot. I give you my leftover chili and my dry pasta. Please make our lunch.”

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And then it does. Like a boss. Except I’m the boss because I told it what to make.

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If you don’t have an Instant Pot, you can still make this as simple as possible in your crock pot or your stove top.

Have I told you how much I love NOT cooking pasta before adding it to casserole dishes? Truly, any recipe that allows me to dump dry pasta into sauce and walk away is golden.

Simple Chili Mac

Simple Chili Mac (Instructions for Instant Pot, Crock Pot, or Stovetop)
 
Author:
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 48-ounces prepared Chili
  • 8-ounces whole grain pasta, any variety, uncooked
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 cups shredded cheese
Instructions
  1. Stir chili, uncooked pasta, water and salt into Instant Pot, Crock Pot, or large cooking pot.
  2. Instant Pot: Cook at high pressure for 6 minutes.
  3. Crock Pot: Cook on low for 4 hours or hi for 2.5 hours.
  4. Stove Top: Cook on low heat, covered, stirring every few minutes until pasta is tender.
  5. Top casserole with cheese and allow it to melt before serving.

Simple Chili Mac - for Instant Pot, Crock Pot, or Stovetop

Here’s our Easy Chili Recipe! Using leftover chili for this Chili Mac recipe makes it extra simple!

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Simple Lasagna Casserole (Instructions for Instant Pot or Crock Pot!)

This Simple Lasagna Casserole makes it possible for me to offer this proclamation: If life gets any easier, we will all have to find new hobbies. 

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Just kidding. No doubt we all have plenty to fill our days. It’s just that all these Simple Meals take so little time and energy to prepare, we are all shocking ourselves with how quickly we can put a delicious, real food meal on the table!

Prep time for this Simple Lasagna Casserole recipe takes a tiny 5 minutes. Cook time in the Instant Pot takes another 5 minutes. Good grief, I barely have time to get out salad fixings, plates, and forks before my Instant Pot beeps to tell me that dinner is ready.

On the other hand, sometimes it’s nice to start dinner ahead of time, leave, and come back to it a few hours later. That’s where the Crock Pot comes in. I can start this casserole cooking in my crock pot (which also takes only 5 minutes of effort), walk away, do a load of laundry, answer a dozen emails, leave the house, scream for my boys at a soccer game, and come home to a ready-made dinner.

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NOTE: One of the tricks to making this meal so fast and easy to put together is having Cooked Hamburger Meat already prepared and ready to stir into this dish. If you have an Instant Pot, I highly recommend cooking it this way to get ahead on your hamburger. If you don’t have an Instant Pot, I still recommend cooking hamburger meat ahead of time on the stove-top, then freezing it in meal size portions to make dinner prep easier!

Cook Time Options for Simple Lasagna Casserole

Instant Pot: 5 minutes
Crock Pot: 3-4 hours

Simple Lasagna Casserole (Instructions for Instant Pot and Crock Pot!)
 
Author:
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 16-ounces UNCOOKED whole grain pasta, any shape
  • 1 pound cooked hamburger meat
  • 50-ounces spaghetti sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 16-ounces cottage cheese
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (your favorite)
Instructions
  1. Stir uncooked pasta, spaghetti sauce, water, cooked meat, sea salt, and cottage cheese in a crock pot or instant pot. Cook as follows:
  2. Crock Pot: Cook on low for 3-4 hours.
  3. Instant Pot: Cook on Manual at high pressure for 5 minutes.
  4. Once time is up for either Crock Pot or Instant Pot, stir mixture and top with cheese, covering dish so the cheese will melt.
  5. Serve!

Simple Lasagna Casserole for Instant Pot or Crock Pot

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How to Cook 5 Pounds of Frozen Hamburger Meat in an Instant Pot in 30 Minutes (and what to do with it)

This is, hands down, my favorite Instant Pot trick so far! I will forevermore cook frozen hamburger meat an Instant Pot as it saves loads of time and I don’t have to thaw, babysit, or stir my meat to get it ready to add to dishes. Wait till you see how easy this is!

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How to Cook Frozen Hamburger Meat in an Instant Pot

Step One: Get hamburger meat out of the freezer.

(But whatever you do, don’t plan ahead. No way, no how! Don’t thaw your meat because life is too short to spend time thinking about details like this.)

Step Two: Pour 1 cup of water into the bottom of the pot under the trivet. (Very important detail!)

Step Three: Put chunks of frozen meat onto the metal trivet inside the pot. Stand them up like soldiers so they’ll cook more evenly.

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Step Four: Put the lid on your Instant Pot. Close the venting valve so it will seal.

Step Five: Set the Instant Pot to 30 minutes on high pressure on Manual Mode.

Step Six: Come back when the machine beeps as if to say, “Your hard work is done. I hope you enjoyed your nap.”

Step Seven: Carefully release the pressure and use a meat thermometer to be sure the internal temp is at least 160 degrees.

Step Eight: Transfer the cooked meat to a big bowl and use a sturdy utensil to break it apart. (I have this “Meat Masher” and love it for this job!)

Now you’ve got five pounds of cooked hamburger to use any way you need! See my big list below of great options!

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Note: What to do with the water and grease at the bottom of your Instant Pot?

If I had one complaint about this meat-cooking method, it would be that all the grease drips to the bottom, leaving the meat a bit dry. What can I say? I may be the only one on the planet who wants to keep a little fat in my meat! So I use a ladle to drizzle some of the water/grease back into the meat after I’ve broken it apart.

How to Cook 5 Pounds of Frozen Hamburger in an Instant Pot

Now I’ve got some great recipes and ideas to share for using your cooked hamburger meat!

33 Recipes for your Cooked Hamburger Meat

Divide your cooked meat into 1-pound portions in freezer bags, freeze, then pull them out to use as needed for quick and Simple Meals! Or divide your meat into separate bowls and start building some of these great meals to make your meal time ridiculously easy!

Have you tried cooking frozen hamburger in an Instant Pot? What are your favorite meals that include hamburger meat?

Simple Hashbrown Casserole (Instructions for Instant Pot, Crock Pot, or Oven!)

Hooray! Simple Hashbrown Casserole is my first (of many?!) Instant Pot recipes to share. But guess what else?

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I’m well aware that not everyone has an Instant Pot, so I’m also providing instructions for baking this in an oven. Not only that, because there are times we might need a slower cooking option (like, if we need to get dinner started, then head out to ball games, then come home to a cooked meal) – so I’m also including Crock Pot cooking instructions!

As best I can, I will provide all these options each (or most of the) time I share an Instant Pot recipe. Here’s a quick glance at cooking times for this Simple Hashbrown Casserole so you can make your best plan on the day you make this.

Cook Time Options for Simple Hashbrown Casserole

Instant Pot: 15 minutes
Oven: 1 hour
Crock Pot: 3-6 hours, depending on low or hi setting

instant pot hashbrown casserole

You need just five ingredients to make this recipe! One of the ingredients is this Homemade Ranch Dressing Mix, which I love to have on hand at all times. Another ingredient is cooked meat. This time I made hamburger meat in my Instant Pot and I can’t wait to tell you about it! This is the easiest meat-cooking method there is – and possibly my “if you get an Instant Pot for no other reason, this is it!” shout out. I’ll share about this meat-cooking method soon!

You might remember a variation of this new simple recipe: Bacon Ranch Hashbrown Casserole. You can most certainly make that recipe in your Instant Pot or Crock Pot following these instructions! And if you don’t love the “ranch” flavor this calls for, simply sub it out for any spices you like! Truly this recipe is most forgiving, and allows you to make it with any meat you prefer or have on hand, so you can create it to your family’s taste!

And then there’s the variety of cooking methods that allow you to make this no matter how busy your day, so I think we can all agree that this recipe wins the “Cooks Choice Award!”

Simple Hashbrown Casserole

Simple Hashbrown Casserole (Instructions for Instant Pot, Crock Pot, or Oven!)
 
Author:
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 1 pound cooked meat (hamburger, ham, bacon, sausage, or any of your choosing!)
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar or Colby jack cheese
  • 3 cups sour cream
  • 3 Tablespoons Ranch Dressing Mix
  • 1 bag of frozen shredded hashbrowns
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, stir together cooked meat, shredded cheese, sour cream, and ranch dressing mix.
  2. Fold in frozen hashbrowns until all ingredients are well combined.
  3. Instant Pot Method: Cook for 15 minutes on manual mode, hi pressure.
  4. Oven Baking: Bake uncovered in a 350° oven for 45-60 minutes or until casserole is lightly browned and bubbly.
  5. Crock Pot Method: Cook on low for 6 hours or on hi for 3 hours.

Simple Hashbrown Casserole (for Instant Pot, Crock Pot, or Oven)

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What I Think About My New Instant Pot

I finally did it. After so many of you told me how great the Instant Pot is, after so many insisted that I would love it, after all kinds of hemming and hawing and rebelling about getting one more appliance for my kitchen…I finally got myself an Instant Pot.

Instant Pot

It was Amazon Prime Day. It was a good deal. It was a big pot for my family’s big needs. It was time.

I’m sure you’re all wondering, has my new Instant Pot completely changed my life? Am I a better mom now? Do I sleep better at night because of it? Does it help my house stay in a less cluttered state? Do I get mail to the box in better time? Am I finally wearing matching socks? In other words, does the Instant Pot help make my world go round?!

The answer to all of the above is “no.” But I do make mean batches of hard boiled eggs in record time, so I think we can all give a cheer and feel that this was definitely a worthwhile purchase.

eggs

I’ve truly had fun with my new toy, which isn’t taking up any extra room on my counter because it has actually taken the place of my coffee pot if you can believe it! (I realized after I started drinking this healthy coffee that I no longer need a coffee-maker taking up space on a daily basis. Away went the coffee pot. In its place went the Instant Pot. A pot for a pot. It just seemed logical.)

At the very moment our Instant Pot arrived on our porch, I was making Tuna Salad. Matt decided he definitely wanted boiled eggs in his tuna since we now had an Instant Pot in which to make them quickly. I read the “how to boil eggs” instructions while he got it set up, and while I’m pretty sure we didn’t do everything right, nothing blew up, our eggs hard boiled like they were supposed to, and Matt got eggs in his tuna the way he wanted. Good story, huh?

Not long after the arrival of the pot and the making of the eggs, we headed back out to church camp for a week. So our Instant Pot sat forlorn and lonely on our counter-top all week. Since coming back from camp, I’ve been playing with it as I’ve had time. Here’s what I’ve tried, though please don’t get excited because my stories might bore you to sleep…

For instance, one night we had company and my stove was full of other big pots cooking other food. So I tried steaming our broccoli and carrots in the Instant Pot. The recommended seven minutes was way too long and our broccoli came out dead and mushy and completely unappetizing. Perhaps it’s not a good idea to try a new appliance when you’re serving food to company?

instant pot2

See, look. My full stove, which is what led me to steam veggies in my Instant Pot. Fascinating.

A few days later I put a whole chicken into my Instant Pot, dumped on some BBQ Sauce, and turned it on. That was ridiculously simple and we ate chicken for lunch 35 minutes later. I served it with okra. It was very good. The end.

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The part of the story you don’t want to hear is that I asked Matt to please take the leftover meat off the bones, but I didn’t communicate clearly about saving the bones so I could try making broth in my new Instant Pot. Learning to make broth in my new pot will have to be a lesson for another day.

instant pot beef

Perhaps my favorite of anything I’ve tried so far is cooking frozen ground beef! As soon as I perfect this method, I will for sure share the details. I think this will be a HUGE time saver!

Sooo, while none of this Instant Pot news was super exciting to read about at this point, you can be sure that as we settle into a new school year with lots of teenage mouths to feed, we will be absolutely making the most of our new Instant Pot! And when I figure out all the great food we can make with it, I’ll share all the fabulous details!

I’d love to hear from you if you have an Instant Pot. What are your favorite time-saving recipes to make?

What Does Laura Think About the Instant Pot?

I think I might be the only person left on the planet who doesn’t have an Instant Pot. If you didn’t have one before, you surely got one for Christmas. Me though? I didn’t ask for one; didn’t get one. I’m the weirdo who still cooks everything the “old fashioned way” – in my crock pot, on my stove-top, and in my double oven.

instant pot

Am I anti-Instant Pot? Absolutely not. Research tells me they are healthy to use, and according to everyone (on the planet) who has one, they are fantastic.

So what in the world is wrong with me? Why don’t I have or even want an Instant Pot?

I liken my Instant Pot mindset to the way I feel about a Bread Machine. Great as they are, I never wanted one of those either. Why? Because I’m so used to making bread without one that I don’t have to think about how to make bread any more. I just do it. So if I got a Bread Machine, I’d have to actually read a manual and relearn how to make bread and while surely this learning curve would only take about 20 minutes, I just can’t wrap my brain around the endeavor without feeling overwhelmed.

Some things just don’t make sense, but inside my brain, it all makes perfect sense, so do try to understand. Making bread “the hard way” is easier than making bread “the easy way” because the harder way is easier for me. There. That ought to clear things right up.

I believe the same is true with the Instant Pot. I’ve heard I could cook hard boiled eggs in an Instant Pot in a shorter amount of time than it takes to boil them on the stove-top, but I’ve decided that by the time I figured out how to do it the new way, I could already have my eggs boiled and made into Deviled Eggs, amen and amen.

Perhaps I’m being dramatic. Perhaps I should just admit my abhorrence of owner’s manuals. Perhaps I’m set in my ways and I’ll turn into one of those grandmas who can’t handle change and never gives in to the latest and greatest that promises to make my life better.

Oh my goodness. It’s happened. I’ve become my grandma.

Indeed, my grandma hated air conditioning (can you imagine?) because she was so used to going without it that she didn’t know how to use the window unit her kids installed for her comfort. So she either left it off on 102 degree days, or she turned it on but still left all the windows open so the hot air had to compete with the cold air.

Heavens, what would Grandma have done if we gave her an Instant Pot?

There may be hope for me, and maybe one of these days I’ll go ahead and give an Instant Pot a try. (This one looks promising. Any thoughts? Recommendations?)

No doubt, I’ll love it once I’m used to it. I will admit that it really does sound great (owner’s manual notwithstanding). But in the meantime, I declare that the hard way is easier. If you are an Instant Pot owner, now’s your chance to talk some sense into me…