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Episode 220: Pantry staples, Passover, picky kids, and pandemic cooking: Melissa Clark helps us get through lockdown

Cookbook author and New York Times food writer Melissa Clark is on the latest episode of the Parenting Bytes podcast to help us get through this lockdown, with her favorite pantry staples, Instant Pot foods, easy lockdown recipes, and a bit about her new cookbook, Dinner in French! parentingbytes.com

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Cookbook author and New York Times food writer Melissa Clark is here to help us through the cooking part of this lockdown, telling us about her favorite pantry staples, which foods she thinks cook best in the Instant Pot, and a bit about her new cookbook, Dinner in French!

Packaged foods in a cabinet

CLICK HERE TO JUMP TO AN INTERACTIVE TRANSCRIPT OF THE EPISODE

Lockdown cooking

We’re in our third week of lockdown here in the New York City area, and I think it’s safe to say that even people who love to cook are sick of cooking at this point. Lockdown cooking is not like regular cooking. It’s having everyone home all the time for all meals and snacks, which for most families is unusual, and you may not have all of your regular ingredients available.

But we knew the perfect person to turn to for help: Melissa Clark! We’ve talked about her on the show before, recommending her recipes and cookbooks with the kind of enthusiasm most people save for movie stars (if you’ve never made her Creamy Corn Pasta with Basil, bookmark it — corn season will be here soon!).

The New York Times has really stepped up with their Coronavirus coverage, which is in front of the Times’ paywall. And we’re especially excited that they’ve decided to include so much food coverage! You should definitely check out Melissa’s article on stocking up your pantry, as well as this great collection of  Self-Quarantine Recipes, which will help us use up some of the canned and packaged goods we’ve stocked up on.

Melissa Clark

Melissa shared with us so many nuggets of food wisdom, including what makes a good pantry staple, how to make the most of your Instant Pot, and even what Amy can use instead of anchovies for vegetarian dishes! (And yes, Amy ordered two of the suggestions before this episode posted!)

Melissa Clark's headshot

From Melissa’s bio:

Melissa Clark is a food columnist for the New York Times Food Section, where she writes the popular column: A Good Appetite and has starred in over 100 cooking videos. She’s also written 42 cookbooks, the latest of which, Dinner In French, explores French cuisine with her characteristic Brooklyn je ne sais quoi. She’s also the recipient of two James Beard Awards and two IACP awards (International Association of Culinary Professionals), and her work has been selected for the Best American Food Writing series. Clark was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, where she now lives with her husband and daughter.

This Week’s Links

Intro (00:00:11)

Rebecca Levey, KidzVuz

Amy Oztan, Amy Ever After

Andrea Smith, technology guru extraordinaire

Melissa Clark, NYTimes Cooking Recipe Box, Dinner in French, Dinner in an Instant

Interview with Melissa Clark (00:03:23)

Spaghetti With Garlicky Bread Crumbs and Anchovies, by Melissa Clark — NY Times Cooking

Melissa’s weekly column, A Good Appetite

One-Pot Mujadara with Leeks and Greens, by Melissa Clark — NY Times Cooking

NY Times free Coronavirus coverage

Comfort in an Instant, by Melissa Clark

Let’s Start Easy: Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes, by Amy Oztan — Amy Ever After

The Best Matzo? It’s Homemade, by Melissa Clark — New York Times Food

Easy Matzo, by Melissa Clark — NY Times Cooking

Classic Matzo Brei, by Melissa Clark — NY Times Cooking

Bytes of the Week (00:35:24)

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert — YouTube

Last Week Tonight — YouTube

Some Good News with John Krasinski — YouTube

 

Peloton App free trial

Crunch Live free trial

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library — YouTube

Dolly Parton’s America Podcast

Subscribe!

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Transcript

Episode 220: Pantry staples, Passover, picky kids, and pandemic cooking: Melissa Clark helps us get through lockdown transcript powered by Sonix—easily convert your audio to text with Sonix.

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Episode 220: Pantry staples, Passover, picky kids, and pandemic cooking: Melissa Clark helps us get through lockdown was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the latest audio-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors. Sonix is the best audio automated transcription service in 2020. Our automated transcription algorithms works with many of the popular audio file formats.

Rebecca:
Welcome to Parenting Bytes. This is Rebecca Levey of KidzVuz. I'm here today with Amy Oztan of Amy Ever After.

Amy:
Hello!

Rebecca:
And, Andrea Smith, Technology Guru Extraordinaire.

Andrea:
Hello!

Rebecca:
Hello, ladies, how are we all doing in our confinement?

Andrea:
Well, isolated.

Amy:
Yeah! It's like I don't wanna complain because we are, we are fine. I'm just, ahm, you know, it's just stressful.

Rebecca:
Yeah! It's stressful.

Andrea:
It's, it's anxiety-provoking cause there's no. You just don't know. I mean, I've, I have been in now for over two weeks and,

Amy:
Yeah!

Andrea:
you know, I always worked from home, so I don't feel any different in that sense. I didn't have to adapt to any new techniques. But it's just that now when I'm done working, I can't socialize. I'm isolated. I can't go out with my friends, I can't go out to dinner. Although I do take walks in the neighborhood here with friends and we stand six feet apart or we walk six feet apart. And if anyone gets too close, the person behind yells, "you're too close, you're too close". And so we've been doing that like good three-mile walks in the morning.

Rebecca:
Oh, that's nice. We've been doing a lot of dog walking. That's our

Amy:
Your poor dog?

Rebecca:
thing. I don't know.

Andrea:
I know all these dogs are exhausted.

Rebecca:
That, she's so tired. It's actually hilarious. It's like we've totally worn her out. Yeah, you, should like looked over me and like what?

Amy:
You're talking about me.

Rebecca:
She's also starving. She's so hungry cause I think we've just increased her calorie. It's like, she's so hungry.

Amy:
Yeah. Andrea, you always used to post lots of pictures of being with your friends. My life has not changed much at all. Like, I just didn't go out much. But the big difference for me is that I'm not alone all day anymore. Like I used to love everybody going off to school and work and then I would have solitude. And that's the change for me. Everybody's here all the time.

Andrea:
That has to be so hard to have everyone in the house with you.

Rebecca:
Oh, it's so hard.

Amy:
It's so weird. It's just weird.

Rebecca:
It's so hard, I said to my husband the other day cause my daughter's leaving for college in the fall. I'm really not gonna have that empty nest thing.

Amy:
Yeah!

Rebecca:
Like this is really a great preparation.

Amy:
You're gonna be like, see yah.

Rebecca:
Like, bye!

Amy:
Yep!

Rebecca:
All right, all right. Well, on the show today, we have someone awesome on to help us get through the food part of our quarantine and our pantries and what it means to have a pantry staple, what it means to cook every day. We have Melissa Clark on. She is a columnist at The New York Times food section. She is a cookbook author, most recently with her new book, Dinner in French. And also my favorite Instant Pot cookbook, Dinner in an Instant.

Amy:
Yes! I have sent that to so many people.

Rebecca:
I have sent it. Literally every time somebody and it's departed like here you go, get yourself some good food. So we have Melissa on the show today. We are really excited to have Melissa on. She's a fellow Brooklynites along with Amy. And we are gonna have a great conversation about what you can and should be cooking during this time, why you shouldn't be intimidated to cook. And also ways to make it not get repetitive and kind of a drag. And we'll talk a little bit about Passover and a little bit about her new book too. So stay tuned. We'll be right back with Melissa Clark. We are back with Melissa Clark, food columnist for The New York Times and cookbook author. Many of our favorite cookbooks, I should add, that we've mentioned on the show before. Melissa, we are so excited to have you on the show today.

Melissa:
I am so excited to be here.

Rebecca:
I have to say that I am kind of a recipe snob in that I find the people whose recipes actually work. That I'm very hard on the people who don't cause I find that just cause people can put out a recipe, it doesn't mean they've tested it. It's for real, it works. And your recipes always, always, always work. How is that? I mean, what do you do? That's true.

Melissa:
I test and I test, and I retest. I test them so many times. And, you know, it's, so I test the recipe many times and I get it to the point where I think it's pretty much as good as it could be. I mean, I always say that if I didn't have deadlines, I'd probably keep testing forever. Because I mean like, but, you know, at some point, you know, my editor is like, so can I have that recipe? Like, yeah, yeah. But another thing is I've try, I've been trying over the years to improve the way I write recipes. I think that's a big part of it. And I'm trying to get better all the time. I mean, I think I have, I think I do a pretty good job, but, you know, what's been really helpful is it unlike you cooking, we have these notes. You know, they're like comments, basically and I read what people say. And I, it does like the questions that come up do make me a better recipe writer, because I'm really thinking about, well, what do people need to know? What step or what can I put in that I take for granted that maybe a home cook who hasn't made this dish before might not. So I'm trying, it's a combination of testing the recipe a lot and then also being really careful when I write it up.

Rebecca:
So I think like at this point in whatever we're calling this self isolation, quarantine, pause, wherever you are in the country, there are a lot of people who are maybe cooking for the first time, certainly in New York. This is true where we are a land of takeout and delivery. And, we know, we were joking before we came on like people store books in their ovens, shoes in their ovens, you know?

Melissa:
Right.

Rebecca:
I was, imagine like smoke just billowing out of apartments as people turned on their oven for the first time. And, you know, you wrote a great whole like section two weeks ago on New York Times on how to use pantry staples. And I really did have friends email me saying, what's a pantry staple?

Melissa:
Wow!

Rebecca:
Like, what does that even mean?

Melissa:
Right, right!

Rebecca:
And, you know, and I literally have friends who don't know how to boil water, like they put the pasta in the pot with the cold water and turn it on, so.

Melissa:
Well, I mean, that will get you there eventually.

Rebecca:
No, it'll be soggy, but you'll get there. Like let's pretend that this is just like brand new territory. And maybe you even feel like something like The New York Times would be very intimidating as a place to find recipes. How, what is a pantry staple? Like, what would be your basics for people to have on hand that they really could cook well.

Melissa:
Well, I mean, I do think, you know, if you, I do agree with you that people are cooking for the first time, three meals a day every day. I mean, even people who love to cook, love to cook once in a while, sometimes, you know, you're not necessarily making their, themselves and possibly their whole family's three meals a day every day. So, like even me, I, I've never done that for this longer time. So it's different. I mean, I do think that this is a different way of cooking and relating to food than most people are useful, whether they love to cook or whether they don't love to cook. I think everyone's gonna come out at the end of it being better cooks, which is great. And I hope that people keep cooking. You know, when we go back to normal life, because it, I really think that feeding yourself is just one of the best things you can do, you know, emotionally and also for your body. That said, though, what is a pantry staple, right? What do you need to have in your pantry? A pantry staple is anything that's nonperishable that you like to eat. So it doesn't really matter what it is. You know my pantry might look different from your pantry, but the idea is that it will stay down there and it, you can just leave it in the back of your coverage and you can forget about it if you want for months and months. And then when you're hungry and there's nothing in the house for dinner, you pull out your pantry staple and you're like, ah okay, I got this. I got my can of chickpeas. I have my, my box of pasta or I have my bag of rice. Like whatever your pantry staples are. They're there for you when you're hungry. And when you haven't had a chance to go shopping or in times like this when you don't wanna go shopping because you don't wanna, you know, expose yourself potentially. So that's a pantry staple. In my house we have a lot of pasta, a lot of rice, a lot of beans. And then we have a lot of canned fish because I love anchovies and tuna and sardines. And I, you know being without them makes me terrified. So we have that stocked up. And then there are vegetables like lawn keeping vegetables called pantry vegetables, garlic, onions, lemons in the fridge keep for months. But really, garlic is my number one thing. That's another, I always have garlic on hand. If I have garlic and a box of pasta and some olive oil, I'm good. Like I'm totally good.

Rebecca:
Yeah, I think people don't realize how it can be very simple. Like I think that's what intimidates people about cooking. Is this idea that maybe they've watched a lot of Food Network where

Melissa:
Yep, yep!

Rebecca:
everything you know, and, and so all of the sudden it looks like it's A. a race, but B takes a million things and you have to sear and you have to do this. And it, it, just putting the pasta in the water or having something like anchovies. You're the whole reason I cook with anchovies all the time. Feeling like, oh, I don't like anchovies, but realizing that, that's just they dissolve and it just adds something.

Melissa:
Yeah, I know!

Rebecca:
That's something, something.

Melissa:
Well, that's it, you know, everybody. It's like you develop your like, secret little things that you do. The more you cook, the more you kind of develop those like things. Like, so for me, I love anchovies and, you know, my daughter that she doesn't like anchovies, but she doesn't always know that they're there. I mean, not that I, I don't, I don't lie. Like if she asked me straight out, mommy, is there anchovies in this? I would tell her yes. But we have this recipe. Okay. This is something that we, this is a total pantry staple recipe. We do all the time. It's pasta with what Dalia, my daughter, calls Crunchy Garlicky Bread Crumbs. And they are crunchy and they are garlicky. And maybe they have a few anchovies melted in there that nobody knows about. Yes, they do. She eats them by the spoonful. And to make them, you just heat some olive oil in a pan. You add some minced garlic and some chocolate anchovies and the anchovies dissolve. And then you throw in your breadcrumbs and you sauté the breadcrumbs with a pinch of salt until they are nice and crisp. It takes like five minutes. That's it. It is so simple and so delicious.

Amy:
I feel like this is a question that's almost offensive since there are two anchovy lovers here, but I'm a vegetarian and whenever I make a recipe that has anchovies, I can tell it's missing something. What could I put in there instead?

Melissa:
Yeah, it's true. I mean, it is. It's cause it's a hard mommy thing. Capers if for the salt.

Amy:
Okay.

Melissa:
But capers, you know chocolate capers, but they're not gonna give you that, your mommy thing, right? So, I think, I've heard that coconut amino acids. Have you even cook with those?

Amy:
No.

Melissa:
Okay. So, apparently coconut amino acids are what people use instead of fish sauce.

Amy:
Oh!

Melissa:
You could try it. I've never used them, but also soy sauce has that like your mommy thing going on.

Amy:
Okay. Thank you!

Melissa:
So.

Amy:
Very selfish question. But this comes up a lot in my house cause my husband loves anchovies and he's always sending me recipes that have them in them. So.

Melissa:
I would try, I would try the coconut aminos and just see. I think Brads makes them maybe, oh, you know what else the Nutritional yeast, nooch.

Amy:
Oh!

Melissa:
I love that. That is great for a mommy.

Amy:
Okay.

Rebecca:
Now we're gonna like cause a run on those things, Amy, at the.

Melissa:
I know.

Amy:
Yeah, but see, I'm the one who post this episode, so I'm gonna make sure that I've ordered mine before I post it.

Rebecca:
Before it goes up.

Melissa:
Exactly. Get your nutritional yeast and your coconut aminos and use that.

Andrea:
So I am at a little bit of a disadvantage because Amy's a really good cook. Rebecca cooks a lot and watches cooking shows and I do neither. So like if you say just sauté this, chop this, do this, brown this, those to me seem overwhelming right there. Like if you said to me, oh, your pantry is filled with staples, you could make five meals out of what you have right here to me. I need to be on one of those shows that basically says I have this, this, this and this. Please give me a recipe so I know how to put them together. And I think for a lot of people, they're kind of challenged in, in ways to combine ingredients that they're not used to combining and cooking in a way that they're not used to cooking every night. I'm really simple. I take salmon. I put something on it. I put it in my broiler oven and I roast vegetables. That's it.

Melissa:
Yeah, but that's you're feeding yourself and you're cooking from scratch. So kudos to you.

Andrea:
Yes. That I can do.

Melissa:
That's amazing. Yeah.

Andrea:
That I can do.

Melissa:
Yeah. So, I mean, I think, okay. I do think that now since we all are at home and we are all cooking more than ever, you know, you have the basics like you can do those things. Now's the time to like add one thing that you're not comfortable with. You know, look up a new recipe. If you have a pantry item that you're not sure how to use or you've always used in the same way, like, okay. You always do the same thing to your chickpeas. Now is the time to say well, let me try something different. Added bonus, we're just feeding our family. So it's not like we're, have a guests over. So what if we mess it up?

Rebecca:
Yeah! If they don't like it, guess what? There's cereal.

Andrea:
That's okay.

Melissa:
Yeah! Except if they don't. That is, that is how we, that's how we roll. If you don't like it, there's a toast.

Andrea:
There's always peanut butter.

Rebecca:
Yeah!

Andrea:
Yep!

Melissa:
Yeah. Peanut butter.

Andrea:
Well, that's, that's true. I mean, I'm really good with the fresh vegetables, you know. But once you, once you start throwing in something else into that mix is when I kind of get overwhelmed. But I think that, I think that starting slow is a really good idea. And just trying one new thing, because I have a huge pantry filled with all these staples that are gonna last for years now.

Melissa:
Did you stock up and now you're like, okay, what do I do?

Andrea:
Exactly!

Melissa:
One of the things that we've been doing at the Times, which is a new thing for us. So at The New York Times, you know, I had my column, I write it once a week. But since the social distancing, what, whatever we're gonna call it state since we've all decided that we need to stay home, right? I have been publishing a pantry recipe every day and it is a talk through your recipe. So I do say things like just chop or sauté. You know, you do have to have some basis of cooking, but there are easy recipes that use pantry staples. And I'm trying to give people options that maybe they didn't think of. So I did a, I did a lentil and rice recipe yesterday that's based on a Mujadara, which is a Lebanese and actually Middle Eastern. You know, more than Lebanese, a Middle Eastern dish of lentils and rice and fried onions. And this is like you, basically you need four ingredients to make this dish. I mean, you can use, you know you can add, I added some spices but you don't even need to. It's rice, it's lentils, it's water and salt and olive oil and onions. And that's it. And I think that we all, I mean, so many of us have those things at our pantries. But maybe we didn't think to combine it just like this. So I'm trying to do that every single day. You can go on to The New York Times. It's free if, even if you don't subscribe because they're putting all of their Coronavirus coverage online for free. And you'll find a pantry recipe that maybe you didn't think of making.

Rebecca:
I love that that counts as Coronavirus coverage.

Amy:
Yeah, exactly!

Melissa:
Totally! I do too.

Amy:
Cause it's not just the health stuff. It's like how to survive and not be miserable. That's awesome of The New York Times.

Melissa:
Yeah, exactly! I mean, we got to eat well, right? It's like that is the thing. That's what we, we really need to take care of our bodies. And I just believe that if you are eating food that tastes delicious, it nourishes you better. You know, I mean, whatever. There's no science behind that. Let's just say I feel.

Rebecca:
You know, it's so funny cause I now find myself almost panicking when I use my pantry staples, like I'm like, what if we now get on like total lockdown and we can't get out to count on it? I've used the pantry staple before. I use the chicken that was in my fridge. So how do you, now that like we all have our stock? Are you replenishing those staples as you use them or you like kind of conserving them and trying to focus on what you are able to get fresh?

Melissa:
That's a really good question. I have been doing a little of each. You know, I try to, I said, buy something fresh. I use it for sure. Maybe I'll bulk it out with a pantry staple. I did use of my, I may use up my lentils so that we can really take a long time to use up my lentils. But I, you know, I dug into my lentils, that I dug into my rice and I dug into my onions. Now I actually have no more onions. So, that does make me nervous. But, you know, I mean, it's, I have leeks and I have scallions and I have shallots. So I'm gonna be fine. And you know what? I'm gonna go to this. I've been going grocery shopping once a week. Out in, in the world, I go out. I put my gloves on, put my, get my, my bags that I go, you know, and I stock up once a week. And so, and they've had everything. It's really hot. I've had to wait on line, but it's not like I haven't found for the most part. I mean, I haven't found everything, but they'll have onions. And if they don't have onions, I'll have more shallots. So, I, you know, the food, locally, you know, I've been reading a lot. It makes me feel better to read about like worst times for some reason. So I'm reading a lot of like World War II literature right out of like hey, we've got food, we're fine. We're not being bombed. We're, we're gonna be fine if we just stay home and cook delicious things. So.

Rebecca:
So this is also probably a great time for people to get their kids involved in cooking, especially because it's, it's gonna be a long haul.

Melissa:
Yeah!

Rebecca:
And, you know, and I think it does a lot of times falls on the mom. It definitely falls on usually one parent either way to do the cooking. And, you know, I do cook. I cook probably five nights a week usually. And it doesn't seem like as bigger deal. But you're right, now that it's, every day like knowing that I mean, I don't know, there's, there's like a different mentality to it that feels different. Whereas something ending my day, I looked forward to cooking cause it was actually like my time and sort of creative and release. But now I'm like, oh, my God, now I'm, what am I cooking tonight? And I did, my daughters are seniors in high school, so they're grads. We were gonna do this like cooking prep anyways before they left for the world.

Melissa:
Right, right!

Rebecca:
And now it seems like the perfect time. But now I'm more annoyed with anyone in my kitchen, so it breaks me to be with them all day.

Melissa:
Oh, my God! Yes, yes, I know what you mean. It's like you

Rebecca:
So.

Melissa:
want your cooking time to be your time.

Rebecca:
Yes! Like no one in here with me, just leave me alone. So how did you start to, like what are some good basic things to get kids introducing? You know, I mean, little kids, I think there's always like the baking thing. But maybe when they're older now, like 12 and up, what can they really start doing and what should they be doing so that when they go off to college or in the world, they know how to take care of themselves?

Melissa:
I mean that's, you know, I'm like exactly at that point, so I spend all, I mean I still do a lot of baking with my daughter. She's eleven and we bake all the time. Like today I've got a, I've got a project in mind for us. And, you know, she does the homeschooling thing, the distance learning in the morning and then in the afternoon on Sundays. We've been baking together, which is like science, right? Because I make her, I make her like do all the fractions. So I'm like, okay. So, if I need an eighth of a teaspoon and I'm having the recipe, she rolls her eyes, you know. So, but in, in terms of just you to real cooking, she's now in charge of the salad. So, you know, I guess it's like, I feel like for, for her because she loves this. She loves salad, she, I've got a cake of like salad, credibly lucky. She doesn't eat any cooked vegetables except potatoes. But she does eat salad. So, so I think, give, put them in charge of the thing that they like to eat, right? Cause then that's the thing that they're gonna take with them. So for her, it's salad. Last night we did pizza night. So she was definitely in charge of making her own pizza, which was, I mean, that's easy. I'm trying to get her, I, I mean, I, but, it was, it's like, I, I hear you. Like I also don't want her cooking with me because I get in my group and I really don't like it. I like to cook and not have to have the responsibility of teaching someone. So I, I, I think probably, you know, I don't have a plan about it, but I think the way that it sort of rolls out in our house is that she does a salad and that when I'm making something that I think she would like, particularly, I'll call her in and I'll say, okay, you know, today, you know, we're gonna do the pasta with the garlicky breadcrumbs. So, you know, let's, I want you to be part, actually I haven't showed her that, that I'd have to fess up about the anchovies. But,

Amy:
Busted.

Rebecca:
You have to do that part first. You'll be like come on in.

Melissa:
Yeah, like you know, I mean, it's funny cause I've made it in front of her like she'll be sitting in the kitchen reading her book while I'm cooking and I will have all the ingredients and I'll be making the garlicky bread crumbs. And so it's there. She just doesn't lookup. Is that my fault? It's not my fault.

Amy:
I've found that having my kids prep stuff is a great way to get them involved without them actually cooking with me and trust me. They don't wanna cook with me anyway, but like giving them a list of like, okay, I need two onions diced and I need these carrots sliced and they kind of do it on their own anytime during the day. And then I have less to do when it's time to make dinner. That's been really helpful.

Melissa:
Okay. That's amazing. How old are your kids?

Amy:
Oh, they are teenagers. They're sophomore in high school and a senior, a freshman in college. And Rebecca actually suggested this years ago on this podcast. When I was complaining about my kids not helping, she's the one who suggested to have them prep. So I would say from the time that my daughter was like 11 or 12, I could leave her a small list of things to prep and she would do it. So that's good for younger kids too.

Rebecca:
It's a good thing to do while you're at work. Just tell your kids, like, have this ready for me so I can cook when I get home.

Amy:
But what you said about having them help with the things that they like to eat is key because last week my son baked bread with me for the first time ever because he loves bread. And he was finally like, okay, I'm here. I have some extra time. Let's do this.

Melissa:
Wow!

Amy:
Yeah.

Melissa:
That's amazing!

Amy:
As a big win.

Rebecca:
Yeah, he'll be a hit when he goes back to college.

Melissa:
Things change. Things change, right?

Amy:
Yep!

Rebecca:
But speaking of that, I have to say, so I've seen a lot of people on Facebook taking out their instant pot that they bought two years ago, inside their closet.

Melissa:
I know, finally they're like, oh, let's do this, this thing up.

Rebecca:
Your book, Dinner in an Instant, I have to say. And I know you had the follow up Comfort in an Instant, which I also have, but I haven't cooked from it as much as Dinner in an Instant because that was the book that truly got me cooking in the instant pot, because everything I made before that that I tried from like online bloggers or whatever, it all tastes like mush, like it was all the same.

Melissa:
Yeah.

Rebecca:
Everything came out. So I get sort of how to curry, it sort of like, I don't know. It like everything was sort o,f it just all the same. And I thought, like, this is what it is. It's just a big stew pot or a soup pot. Like, I don't understand why people are excited about this. And your cookbook is like everything. Every recipe is different. Everything's interesting. It has incredible like layers of flavors.

Amy:
It doesn't treat it like a fast, slow cooker. A lot of the recipes just straight like dump everything in and cook it faster than the slow cooker and it's still mush.

Melissa:
Right!

Rebecca:
And it's not so in an instant.

Melissa:
Right! I mean, well, that's the thing. I mean, I tried to use it for what it was good for and really find out, well, what, what is the instant pot do well, right? Like and where, where it's, where are its lapses? And I mean, as I wrote, you know people, I think the biggest thing with, with when the instant pop first came out as people were trying to cook everything in it. They're like, oh, let's roast a chicken in the instant pot. And that's just a terrible idea. Cause you're never gonna get like a crispy skin. So if you just play to its strengths, then you're gonna get good results. And so what I did in the book was find all those strengths and only do recipes that were exactly the sweet spot. So, yeah, there a lot of stew things, but they, I, you know, they have a ton of flavor because that's how I cook. And there are a lot of soups because that's what it does well. And I didn't try to do things like roast chicken. I didn't even try to be complete and inclusive. I tried to actually be very exclusive and just put in the, like the win wins.

Andrea:
So what are the win wins for those of us who do have an instant pot and have only made Amy's mashed potato recipes? And hard boiled eggs. What are some would like what should people be trying right now? I mean, it's a great time. We're all home.

Melissa:
Yep, exactly.

Andrea:
You know, great opportunity to figure out how it works and, and understand the steam and how long it takes to get up to pressure. I mean, for me, that's, the hardest part is in the recipes I use. It says bring it to pressure, but it doesn't tell me how long it's gonna take to get there. And then I can't gauge the timing of the recipe.

Melissa:
Okay. So that's a really good point. That is and everybody's in, everybody's pressure cooker is a little different. And also there's so many variables about how it's gonna reach pressure like household was that stuff from the fridge or was it room temperature?

Andrea:
Right!

Melissa:
So it's real. I know. It's like a lot of people wanted me. You know, I'll get questions about like timing. And the timing is hard to get, right? It will do it faster though, than not using an instant pot, but not always that much faster. So I wasn't. You know, the only thing that I find you get a really, absolutely faster result in is dried beans and braised beets, because dried beans and braised beets take upwards of two, you know, upwards of one to three hours traditionally. So they, they will go faster in the instant pot. There's not a, but there's not a scientific way of like will how much, you know, how long will it take to reach pressure. So that is the variable. But in terms of what its strengths are, I mean, I think that it is the. I, I don't make beans on the stove anymore. I do not cook my dried beans any other way except in the instant pot, because the pressurized environment just makes them so much more reliably tender. And you don't get that thing where like if you're cooking beans half the time, they're sort of some of them were done and some of them aren't. And some of them are mushy and some of them are kind of hard like it cooks them evenly because they're in a pressurized compartment. So beans are amazing and we eat a lot of beans. We really like beans. And I know that most people have stocked up on dried beans. So this is the time to use them and learn how to make them in the instant pot. Basically the recipes, the same for any kind of beans, whether you soak them or not, you know, depending, you can soak them if it'll, they'll, you can have the cooking time in the instant pot. If you soak them, but you don't need to soak, throw them in, cover them by two inches with some kind of liquid, water or stock. Throw in aromatics and a little dash of oil and then you should look it up on a bean chart. You know there are charts all over the Internet of how long to cook the particular bean cause you don't wanna overcook them and then they'll turn to mush. So just look at and then I mean, that's it. You just put, it's so easy and so pretty consistent. One tip I will give for bean cooking is that if you're not sure like on the timing, better to undercook rather than overcook because you can always add a few more minutes. So, and when once they turn to mush, then you have to make bean soup on your stock. So beans and also braised meats, you know all those like hard cuts of those tough to cook cuts of meat like brisket. You know, we're a, we're getting ready for Passover. So,you know, get out your instant pot to make a brisket. Short ribs. Anything gristly. You know, if you have like a beef stew meat, it's kinda gonna gristly. Throw it in the instant pot. It's gonna be nice and soft.

Rebecca:
Yeah, I will say for anyone else. Your, the Japanese beef curry, I think is the favorite thing. My family is not whole cookbook like that is just when I make that they're like the happiest people on earth. It's just,

Melissa:
And it's good, it's easy too.

Rebecca:
It's easy and it's so good. But it does, it gets let, the meat gets very tender. But it's that the squash and all. I don't know. It's all so good. Yummy together. Do you? When you, I don't know, if you have more than one instant pot like Amy does. Do you also do a rice cooker? Because I find that's what I love to make an instant pot to is all the rice and grains I feel like always come out perfect.

Melissa:
Yes. Yes, especially brown rice. Brown rice, just so much faster in the instant pot.

Amy:
That's basically why I bought a small one. Because I just wanted an instant pot just for making rice.

Melissa:
Yeah!

Amy:
So I was making other stuff in the big one.

Melissa:
Yeah! I, I do that a lot, actually. I mean, I have a rice cooker. I don't have two instant pots. I have a rice cooker and instant pot. But I love rice in my instant pot. So if I'm not using, like if I'm not making the beans in the instant pot, if I've made by beans earlier in the day, I'll make my rice in the instant pot. But if I need to have them going at the same time, I do have a rice cooker.

Rebecca:
This is so helpful, I think for people too. All right, let's talk like just really, really quickly about Passover cause it is coming up. And you guys, did The New York Times put out this great spread and you made homemade Matzo? And I told you before we came on, I was like, oh, that's like, I don't know. Like I just don't know why it's just a giant cracker. But it seemed so intimidating to me. And I actually hate Matzo. I'm like one of those people. I really don't like it. But I was like, oh, homemade matzo. Like, maybe I could get behind that. It won't be cardboard.

Melissa:
Right. Well, yeah!

Rebecca:
So you got to talk to me about how you even decided to make homemade Matzo.

Melissa:
Okay. Well, first of all, there is a reason you hate matzo. Matzo has no salt in it by law, by Jewish law. If it's kosher for Passover Matzo it has no salt. It has can only be flour and water.

Rebecca:
What?

Melissa:
Yeah. So if you see like salted matzo or egg and onion matzo, it's not kosher for Passover. It's still, onion matzo is also cultural food. So there's lots of you know, there's lots of variations on it. But the stuff at the Seder table, you know, especially like if you're, if you're gonna, if, if it's you're observant and you're, you know, when you wanna and you should have kosher Passover matzo at the Seder table, right? Of course, it's not gonna have salt. So, you gotta put stuff on it to make it taste good. Shmurah matzo, have you ever had the Shmurah matzo? That's the matzo that's cooked by like, you know, it's like extra special.

Rebecca:
Yeah, round?

Melissa:
Yeah, it is, extra special.

Rebecca:
Yeah!

Melissa:
Artisan matzo, handmade and I watch the week from like the second they planted in the ground. It's like Rabbi watch. It's super special and super expensive. That has flavor because they do those in wood-fired ovens at super high heat. So it all coal-fired, I'm not sure but it in, their, their super high heat and they are. You get a lot of the flavor from the char, so those are better. But homemade matzo is a whole other thing. Homemade matzo is I mean, it's basically it is just a giant cracker. And I add salt and I add olive oil to mine. And it's delicious. It is so good. You don't put it on your Seder table, but I, I'm gonna make matzo brei with it and I'm gonna use it as a cracker and I'm gonna eat it. You know, I'm gonna make it with my daughter, too. You know, it's like educational. You know okay. You know, the Israelites had to do this in 18-minutes. Can we do it in 18-minutes? Like a sort of fun. So homemade matzo is great to make. And it also, and then it tastes so much better than anything you can buy. So, those are the reasons to make it.

Andrea:
Anything with salt on it tastes so much better.

Rebecca:
And butter.

Andrea:
Anything with sea salt?

Melissa:
I know what you do. When I eat regular, like, when I eat like regular matzo from the box. You know cause you always have a box leftover or whatever. I always put, I always, I always put salt on it.

Rebecca:
Yeah!

Andrea:
Three boxes.

Melissa:
Yeah! Three boxes or I always butter it.

Andrea:
Or I buy the egg matzo. I do buy the egg matzo because that at least has a little flavor to it.

Melissa:
Well, I think they put salt in that one too.

Andrea:
That's what I eat on the side.

Melissa:
Yeah, I think they put

Andrea:
Yeah.

Melissa:
salt on that one, in that one. So, yeah, the. And then with butter on that, it's really good. Oh my gosh! Egg matzo, butter, salt and an anchovy.

Andrea:
You lost me at anchovy.

Melissa:
All right. We'll just disappear.

Rebecca:
No, that's so good. It's like salty and briny.

Melissa:
Yeah!

Rebecca:
Yeah! See, I think, I think the ancestors would approve. If they had had time for salt. They would have done it. I think like, this.

Melissa:
I think so, too. I absolutely think so.

Rebecca:
And they lived by a salty sea. So like they had some, there was some salt getting in there, or somehow just, most is.

Melissa:
Maybe they were dunking. They could have been dunking. You know, we don't know what they dunk. Do we dunk matzo in the saltwater?

Rebecca:
I don't know a Jew that's not using salt.

Melissa:
I, yeah, seriously. I mean, and then when you put the charoset on and you make the Hillel sandwich, by the time you put the horseradish in the charoset, it's like then it has some flavor, then it's good.

Amy:
And to tie everything together, I once had to make dessert for somebody during Passover and I was making an instant pot cheesecake and matzo makes an excellent crust.

Melissa:
Oh, good to know.

Amy:
Yeah!

Rebecca:
Oh, Amy.

Melissa:
Good to know.

Rebecca:
Look at the non-Jewish girl with her special twist.

Amy:
I cook for everybody.

Rebecca:
That's awesome. Well, thank you, Melissa. This was so helpful and informative and fun. And it was so much fun to have you on. We've been wanting to have you on forever. And please come back.

Melissa:
I will, absolutely will.

Rebecca:
When this is over.

Melissa:
This is, it was great to talk to you all. Thank you for having me. And stay safe.

Amy:
We, we can't let you leave.

Melissa:
Wait.

Amy:
We can't let you leave before you talk about your new cookbook.

Melissa:
Oh, wait!

Amy:
Oh, my God! It's, I'm a member of a cookbook club and it is definitely going to be my recommendation for when we're able to all be in the same room together again, because Dinner in French looks amazing. And I, I ordered it from Amazon. And it's, everything is taking longer to get here now, but it looks so good.

Melissa:
Oh, thank you. Yeah. So Dinner in French is my latest cookbook. And you know, it's funny, you know, I've been through. We were supposed to do a book tour, but obviously everything got canceled. So I haven't been talking about it. But it is a cookbook so near and dear to my heart. I spent every summer when I was a kid in France. It was a long, crazy story. That's in the book. But we went, I think my parents took us, my sister and me, and we exchanged houses back in the 80's before the Internet. That was a crazy time and we ate so well. And so the recipes are not classic, like fancy French food. They're very rustic. They're what French people, some of them are what French people actually cook for dinner on a nightly basis. So they're simple and a lot of them have my spin on them. So it's like Brooklyn meets France.

Amy:
Nice!

Melissa:
Like, an, an, with an omelet. I, you know, classic French omelet instead of cheese in the middle. I put tahini sauce like garlicky tahini sauce. Like what you put on falafel.

Rebecca:
Oh, yum!

Melissa:
And it's so good. I made a soufflé, but it's like a spoon bread like an American spoon bread with cornmeal and then it has some harissa in it. Instead of making Ratatouille the old fashioned way where you stand over the stove. I put it on a sheet pan and then I put some chicken on top of it. So it's Ratatouille sheet pan chicken. So they're all, they're French recipes, but they're my recipes.

Amy:
Oh, it's awesome!

Rebecca:
That sounds amazing! Amy, you have to do book club and then have Melissa come.

Melissa:
Fun!

Amy:
We, we always invite the Local Cookbook Authors, and so far the timing hasn't worked out or they were just being nice and that's how they turned us down. But we will definitely invite you to that one.

Melissa:
Oh, thank you!

Rebecca:
Well, this is awesome. Yeah. Now I have to order the book. See, it's not right that you haven't got to do enough press for it.

Melissa:
I know.

Amy:
Yeah!

Melissa:
Well, well, thank you for this.

Rebecca:
Well, when this is over, when we're all out of quarantine, we will all be looking forward to cooking in French and cooking something other

Melissa:
Yeah, exactly!

Rebecca:
than our pasta and our beans. I don't know if anyone's ever gonna eat beans again, but.

Melissa:
True!

Andrea:
Or Staples. I'm gonna go look at all my staples and see what I can make in my instant pot.

Rebecca:
There you go.

Melissa:
Nice! Perfect!

Rebecca:
All right, well, thank you so much and be safe and healthy and hopefully we'll talk to you on the other side.

Melissa:
Okay. You too. Bye!

Rebecca:
Bye!

Andrea:
Thank you!

Amy:
Thank you!

Rebecca:
And we will be right back with our Bytes of the Week. We are back with our Bytes of the Week. Amy, what do you have?

Amy:
I have not one specific Byte, but a huge thank you to all of the late-night comedians and other, you know, famous people who are trying to keep us entertained and from going crazy during this because I rely on people like Stephen Colbert and John Oliver and all those people to comment on the craziness and make me laugh about it. After a day of watching news cause, we're, my husband and I are news junkies. So we just have the news on all day. And then even though those comedians talk about the news, it's like, it's a release. And I was so afraid that they were all just gonna go away during this. They were all just gonna go on hiatus. Like Stephen Colbert, I started, I'm not, I'm usually not up late enough to watch him live. So I usually start my morning like eating breakfast and watching him. And he had a scheduled hiatus for last week anyway. And I was so afraid that like that was gonna be it. Like he wasn't gonna come back. But he's back broadcasting from his house. His kids are helping him. John Oliver has, has done one episode so far from his house. John Krasinski just decided to like, make himself an Internet show. And it's awesome. Like all these people who are still coming into our homes and into our lives. And cause it can't be doom and gloom all the time, like it just, it can. So rather than like hole up in their mansions and just, you know

Rebecca:
Like David Geffen and his yacht.

Amy:
pretend. Yeah! Or on your yacht rather than doing that, you know, they're still trying to entertain us. And I hope they realize how, I think they do. They realize how important that is. It's not just like fun and games. It's like a sense of normalcy almost when you can like, take that time each day to just relax and laugh at what's going on. So, thank you!

Rebecca:
All right, Andrea.

Andrea:
That's, that's good. I've been trying to watch some of those. And, and there's been lots of entertainers, lots of musicians, too. Like last night,

Amy:
Yes.

Andrea:
I watched a video of Graham Nash singing Our House from his living room. And it was just the sweetest thing ever. Just thanking doctors and medical personnel and telling everyone to stay in your house, you know, is just such a, an affirmation of what we're all doing. And just still kind of like a, here let me just cheer you up for a couple of minutes.

Amy:
Yes!

Andrea:
And it totally cheered me up.

Amy:
Yep!

Andrea:
Yeah! So the other thing that's cheering me up is once I realized I couldn't get out to the gym and walking every day just wasn't gonna cut it. I turned to technology, but of course, I didn't wanna spend a whole lot of money. And, I've discovered that some of the really awesome online fitness classes are available for free right now. For instance, I never even looked at Peloton's offerings because I don't have a Peloton bike. But Peloton, which by the way, their website is not Peloton, it's OnePeloton. They have an entire huge library of classes on video, on demand, of strength training and yoga and cardio and stretching and boot camp having nothing to do with your Peloton bike. And they're offering a 90-day free trial.

Amy:
Nice!

Rebecca:
Now, that might be enough to get us through this.

Andrea:
And I signed up and I, and I just thought, oh, my God, I hope that's it. And you know what? When I'm done, I may start paying for it because it's well, hopefully, I'm back at the gym. But I have taken so many different kinds of classes like I feel like I'm really changing up what I'm doing. One day I did a, a strength training. One day I did a high impact. One of those HIIT, H-I-I-T high impact training cardio. And you can take a ten-minute class, you can take a 40-minute class, you can filter it based on how much time you have or whether you're a beginner or an intermediate. So I recommend everybody go and sign up for this 90-day free trial. I have nothing to do with Peloton. They're just killing it with the classes. And then the other online offerings are from Crunch Fitness, which I've also never been to and taken a class at. And if you go to crunchlive.com, they've, I guess they're a little more optimistic. They've got a 45-day free trial.

Rebecca:
Or cheap, depending on how you're looking at.

Andrea:
And also, you know, they've got no equipment needed. They've got bar classes. They've got pilates classes. They've got booty burn. They've got all about abs. So anything you wanna try, you could do something different every single day. What I do is, I connect my laptop or my iPad with an HDMI cord to the TV in my guestroom so I can see it on a big screen. And I just go in there. But if you have a small space, you can just pop your iPad up somewhere. Watch the class and, you know, do it for free and keep moving.

Rebecca:
Yeah, so at the end of this will, I'll be a really good cook, will be in great shape, will not have any jobs and will be immune. So, hopefully some ups and downs, all those. Great. And we'll have really bad roots. Everyone's cup, terrible roof. So,

Andrea:
Oh, my God!

Rebecca:
Okay, so my Byte, I guess, along with Amy. Check out on people entertaining us, is Dolly Parton announced that she is launching a series where she will read books every night. Good night with Dolly. It's launching on Thursday, April 2nd at 6 p.m. It's a 10 book video series. It'll be weekly. And these are all books from her Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, which I don't know if people realize this about Dolly, but she sends books to eight hundred and fifty thousand children per month.

Amy:
She's amazing.

Rebecca:
Per month. Yes!

Amy:
She's like my favorite person in the entire world and I don't even like her music.

Rebecca:
You don't like her music? Oh, Amy, did you listen to the Dolly Parton’s America Podcast?

Amy:
Not yet.

Rebecca:
All right! Get on it.

Amy:
I will, I promise.

Rebecca:
Get on it. But I love this cause Hootch, first all, she's like in bed in her pajamas. So, like, who doesn't wanna read how Dolly Parton read them on, a bedtime book at night. But it also is just helps also promote the, the wonderful work she does with the Dolly Parton's Imagination Library. I mean, it's kind of incredible. So,

Amy:
Yeah!

Rebecca:
everybody, you can watch it on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Everyone saying they recommend put on your pajamas and get in bed. And have Dolly be the last thing that you do at night is have Dolly read you a book. That is my Byte. And I will be doing that starting on April 2nd. And that is our show for today. Please rate, reviews, subscribe and share wherever you're listening to us. There's never a better time to listen and share the podcast. We hope it's bringing,

Amy:
Yeah. What else do you have to do? Come on.

Rebecca:
hopefully, it's bringing people some joy and information and at least a break from their, you know routine of the everyday or an escape from their children. You can find everything we talked about on this show on ParentingBytes.com and of course on Facebook.com/ParentingBytes where you can leave us comments. Let us know what you're talking about. Let us know how your quarantine is going. Until next week, stay healthy and happy parenting. Bye!

Amy:
Bye!

Andrea:
Bye!

Rebecca:
Hey, this is our Parenting Bytes disclaimer, everything we talk about on the show is our own opinion. Any products we recommend, it's our own personal recommendation for entertainment purposes only. If you buy something through our affiliate links or you just happen to buy or see or read or watch something that we recommended, it's at your own risk.

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