Get your chocolate fix

Looking for a chocolate fix? Go Dr. No.

I (virtually) met Amale, the woman behind this amazing chocolate, last year. We chatted via email a bit and I learned that she wants to help people suffering from cancer, diabetes, and other illnesses live happier lives. She really wants to make a difference in our world and has a heart of gold. And really, what better way to spread the happiness than with good-for-you chocolate?

What makes it different?

How cute is this stamp?

Dr. No Chocolate is 75% cocoa and organic with a rich and smooth taste. It makes a perfect treat for diabetics or those eating low carb because it’s sugar-free and void of artificial sweeteners. It’s also gluten free and doesn’t contain artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives.

The chocolate comes in three delicious flavors: Dark Chocolate, Pumpkin Seed & Sea Salt (my favorite!), and Almonds. I love the salty-savory combination that the pumpkin seeds and sea salt add to the sweet chocolate – such a unique and delicious treat! If you have a HUGE sweet tooth, I recommend the variety pack so you can try one of each and pick your favorite!

Great for gifts, baking, or snacking when you’re craving something sweet. You won’t believe it’s sugar-free!

DISCLOSURE: This post is sponsored by Dr. No Chocolate. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Diary of a Snacker successful. All opinions are my own.

Grab ’em and go

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What do you grab when you’re in a hurry? If you’re like most people, it’s junk. I can remember walking to the corner store armed with a pocket full of change and a desire to check off everything on my list – Laffy Taffy, Hot Fries, Slim Jims, and Blow Pops. My 10-year-old self was shining in the glory of it. Why? Because it tasted good, was convenient, and the packaging screamed: “EAT ME, NOW!”

Flash forward almost two decades, and I still revel in all things easy and convenient, but I pride myself on making better food choices.

That’s why I love Bricks Bars. The ingredients are clean and sustainable, and the on-the-go packaging suits my busy – at times, hectic – lifestyle.  Great for hiking, biking, traveling. Just throw them in your bag, and you’re good to go.

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Bricks organic meal bars are paleo and soy, gluten, and antibiotic free. The company uses grass-fed meats, and sustainably sourced GMO-free veggies, fruit, and seeds. Now, that’s something I can stand behind.

My favorite is the organic beef, uncured bacon, cranberry, and sunflower seed bar. Such a unique combination of flavors that makes your senses go wild with adventure. There’s something about the salty-sweet blend that gets me every time.

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Runner up is the organic turkey, sweet potato, cranberry, and pumpkin seed bar reminds me of Thanksgiving. Actually, if I’m honest, it reminds me of Willy Wonka’s factory. Anyone remember the 3-course meal in a stick of chewing gum? I always wondered what that would be like. You get the yummy, savory main course, the side dishes, and pie at the close. What nostalgia attached to this!

Don’t just take my word for it. To taste just how delicious these bars really are, head over to bricksbars.com. You can get a variety sample 3-pack of Bricks Bars for $8.99 and FREE shipping.

Happy Snacking!

 

DISCLOSURE: This post is sponsored by Bricks. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Diary of a Snacker successful. All opinions are my own.

A post-workout bite

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Recovery is an important part of fitness. Sometimes you don’t realize that until you’re so sore, you can’t even get out of bed the morning after an intense training session. Never underestimate the power of the cool down and a good post-workout meal.

A couple of months ago I stumbled across a company, ToYou Healthy Snacks, that makes – you guessed it! – healthy snack bars, including a delicious Post-Workout.

According to CEO Sergio Font, the company was created to “share passion for both a nutritious and active lifestyle.” If this doesn’t resonate with me, I don’t know what does. In fact, it aligns right with my mission to “inspire others to live fit, healthy, and happy lives.”

What you see is what you get.

There are no additives or preservatives, and the bars are gluten free and filling. The perfect post-workout snack to fuel the day and calm hunger. Easy on the go (and an excellent topping for yogurt), these bars help speed up my recovery time.

Each of the seven simple ingredients serves a purpose and complements each other. Salty, savory, and subtly sweet – you won’t even taste the veggies!

Cashews

My favorite! These nuts are high in fat (the good kind) and protein and rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. The magnesium supports healthy bones and nerves.

Dried Spinach

This veggie is packed, and I mean PACKED with vitamins. It’s rich in iron, vitamins K, A, B12, & C, folic acid, manganese, and magnesium. The question here is what doesn’t it do for you?

Hemp Protein Powder

A great source of digestible protein. It’s loaded with calcium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, copper, and more. It’s also a great natural anti-inflammatory.

Mint Chips

These chips add a burst of sweet flavor to the bars and give it a desserty feel. Mint promotes digestion by easing inflammation and prompting our glands to secrete digestive enzymes. It’s a good post-workout herb because it aids the circulation of energy and helps calm inflammation.

Sweet Potato

I am obsessed with sweet potatoes. Not only are they completely yummy and versatile, but they are filled with vitamins that help keep us healthy. Vitamin C produces collagen, which reduces cellulite and keeps our skin looking young and fresh; vitamin D builds strong bones and boosts our energy levels; magnesium helps keep the calm and aids in muscle repair. These are good carbs.

Chia Bran

Chia is fun. You can use the seeds to grow a funky kind of pet – think about those 90s commercials! Or you can eat it and nourish your body with some good stuff. It’s gluten free and has more fiber than plain old bran cereal. Chia is also a good source of healthy fat and has high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. It’s known to improve mental focus.

Brown Rice Syrup

When I spoke to a representative from ToYou, I specifically asked about this ingredient. It’s a sweetener created from brown rice, somewhat similar to maple syrup or honey. There are trace amounts of minerals, but it’s just a binding agent that is minimally used in all of the bars.

Tell me, how do you recover?

For more information about the Post-Workout bars and ToYou’s entire line of healthy snack bars, visit toyousnacks.com

 

DISCLOSURE: This post is sponsored by ToYou Healthy Snacks. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Diary of a Snacker successful. All opinions are my own.

A Polish Easter

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I’ve always been fascinated by other religions, nationalities, and holiday traditions. For a while, it was hard to understand that not everyone had the same Easter morning rituals as my family. Sure, there were egg hunts and treat-filled baskets, but it was so much more than that.

Easter has always been one of my favorite celebrations. Although the traditions have evolved slightly over the last few years, they remain rooted in the spirit of my great-grandmother. And (other than the true meaning of Easter, of course), the highlight of the day is the bread we make for breakfast.

The Bread

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My granny used to make fabulous Easter bread. The recipe was written down on two sides of a little white index card with a pink flower, but she never had to reference it. It’s a simple combination of everyday items – flour, sugar, vanilla, butter, milk, eggs, and yeast.

Granny was very finicky about the whole baking process. Ingredients were gently folded into each other; the dough was never punched, but lightly kneaded; she barely spoke while making it. I remember how she always let me taste the flour/sugar mixture to make sure it was sweet enough. She let the dough rise, and it sometimes tripled in size. The result was a perfectly sweet and dense, and just delicious bread.

Now, it’s a bit different. My nanny has inherited the bread baking responsibility, and I think she worries too much about making it the same exact way with the same exact results. But, if I’m honest, I think hers comes out better – sweeter, lighter, and just tastier.

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We’ve kept the tradition of baking on Good Friday morning. Since it’s a fasting day, you’re not supposed to eat between meals, but I always manage a few bites because not much compares to the taste of freshly baked bread straight from the oven!

We usually make a few large loaves and a bunch of small roll-ups filled with apricot preserves (my favorite!), cinnamon and sugar, or honey and pecans or walnuts. I’m partial to the little rolls.

The Blessing of the Baskets

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When I was younger, we used to go to St. Joseph’s Church (a Polish church) to get our baskets blessed every Holy Saturday. I enjoyed this. We would bring pretty baskets with our bread, colored eggs, butter lamb, horseradish, ham, and kielbasa. My nanny outfitted them with pretty ribbons and doilies. The priest would say a few words and then sprinkle holy water on the food so that it was ready to eat on Easter morning.

We don’t do this anymore, but I wish we did because it is what made the breakfast even more special.

The Breakfast

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Instead of an Easter lunch or dinner, we always have breakfast. It consists of paczki (Polish cream or jelly-filled donuts), pastries, our bread, colored eggs, cold ham, cold kielbasa, and lots of horseradish. I absolutely LOVE this meal and cherish it because we only have it once a year.

 

How do you celebrate with your family?

#FightForIt

The other day someone mentioned that I was really fit. Of course my first reaction was “who, me?” I’ve never really considered myself fit. Thin, at times, but never fit. I guess, when you think about it, working out regularly will get you there, a nd Icredit Core de Force for getting me there.

This Beachbody workout is for you if you want to work your ass off (literally), want that bikini body, have a lot of pent up anger and need an outlet to release it, enjoy hard work, and/or aren’t afraid of looking like a fool (at first anyway). It’s labeled intermediate, but it’s hard. You really have to work for it to get results – that means no wimpy punches or baby kicks. You need to put in all the effort “until the bell.”

Core de Force lasts 30 days without a rest day. Since it’s such a short program, you work hard from beginning to end. The last day of the week is as close as you’ll come to resting – give your body a break with Active Recovery. You’re still working, but you’re loosening up those muscles and preparing for another week of tough work. If you get the Deluxe package, you get a few additional workouts to help you burn more calories and get fit faster – some of these focus on toning the bum (aka MMA Kick Butt).

I have a serious love-hate relationship with Core de Force. I hate the push-ups, but I love the MMA workouts. Dynamic Strength is my absolute worst enemy – if you take the challenge, you’ll see why. What’s enticing about this program is that it’s only 30 days and you can do anything for a month. You definitely feel like you’re working out, but the trainers are great and help you get through it. There is also a modifier who does – you guessed it! – less intense, but still powerful, versions of the exercises. Routines are upwards of 30 minutes. Some days you’ll have two, which could bring the time up to an hour. It’s really not bad when you plan for it. Even if you don’t usually sweat (like me), you’ll be drenched by the end, and I mean hair soaking wet. It feels good.

You may be wondering why I love it if it sounds so…bad? hard? Well, you get results. Fast. Plus, the workouts really are fun. You have 3-minute rounds where you go all out, a  quick opportunity for a water break in between, and then go full force again. When you’re doing it, you hate yourself, you’re cursing the trainers, and you literally just want it to be over. Then, when it is over, you want more. That’s why I’m currently in my second round.

This is the second program I’ve purchased digitally from Beachbody on Demand (BOD)*. I am so in love with my BOD subscription. Now you can purchase a monthly subscription for less than $9 and that gives you access to ALL the Beachbody programs available!

Note: I used to stream on the Amazon Firestick, but have since upgraded to the Apple TV and it was so worth it. The menus are better and so is the display. Highly recommend it. The only downside is that it’s not as portable.

Photo property of Beachbody, LLC.

Before You Begin

Make sure to track your results! Take measurements, weigh yourself, and figure out your container breakdown (more details under “Nutrition”).

Watch the move breakdown videos; trust me – they will come in handy.

Nutrition

Start each day off right – with breakfast. This can be a shake or another healthier option like sweet potato hash and eggs. I’m a fan of eating non-traditional breakfasts. Sweet potato chocolate chili, anyone?

A little Sunday meal prep can help you stay on track! I recently started using my Instant Pot  for this and it has helped tremendously.

The program recommends eating small meals and healthy snacks throughout the day. I’ve gotten into the habit of eating 3 filling meals with minimal snacking. Do what works best for you. The included recipe booklet has fun meals such as BBQ Chicken Pita Pizza and Energy Trail Mix.

I love that the newer Beachbody programs all use the same container breakdowns. (NOTE: These will be updating soon to make it a little easier to convert recipes.) It makes it super easy to stay on top of your nutrition as you move through the programs. Use a simple formula to figure out how many of each container you get per day. My plan is based on a 1,200-1,499 calorie diet: 4Red (protein), 3Green (veggies), 2Purple (fruits), 2Yellow (carbs), 1Blue (healthy fats), 1Orange (nuts and seeds), and 2Teaspoons (oils). This turns out to be plenty of food, but if you’re still hungry, and a glass of water doesn’t do the trick, add another green or red. This plan can also be designed around a vegetarian or gluten free lifestyle.

The Portion Fix Containers help you eat just the right amount.

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Make sure you are drinking plenty of water during the workouts and throughout the day – at least half of your body weight. It will cut down on hunger and keep you hydrated. You might even consider adding Beachbody Hydrate into your routine.

My favorite way to keep hydrated is with my healthy human water bottle.

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Optional Equipment

  • Yoga Mat / Towel for elbow planks (the first round I got rug burn!)
  • Agility Ladder (Deluxe workouts only)

The Workouts

Workouts are switched up throughout the four weeks. Each varies from 6-12 three-minute rounds. You might not get them down right away, but you will as you repeat them. Again, the move breakdown videos are helpful.

Each week ends with a 21-minute Active Recovery (described above). Some days you’ll supplement the workouts with 5 Minute Core on the Floor and 16-minute Core Kinetics. Both are tough, but will get you where you need to be. If your muscles are sore and you are so inclined, there is a Relief workout that can be done each night – and get this: the trainers show up in their jammies!

The Trainers

Joel Freeman – Elite personal trainer and one of the newest Super Trainers in the Beachbody family.

Jericho McMatthews – Self-proclaimed “fitness chameleon,” new mommy (to the cutest baby!), and one of the newest Super Trainers in the Beachbody family.

The Results

Right now this is the newest program (but not for long!) and it has a lot of hype surrounding it. For good reason – it works. I read a ton of positive reviews online. You can expect to see results after the first week if you’re consistent. This is my favorite program. I may whine about it, but I still look forward to my workouts every day. Overall, I lost 4.6 pounds and 4 inches during my first round, but most importantly, I gained strength and definition. Nothing compares to feeling confident in your own skin.

Bottom Line: I have and will continue to recommend this to all of my friends and family. Try it out for yourself. What’s the worst that can happen? If you decide it’s not really your thing, Beachbody offers a 30-day money back guarantee (less s&h). If you do like it and you see results, be sure to submit your before and after photos, weight, and measurements to the Beachbody Challenge and they will send you a FREE t-shirt. Either way, you really can’t lose.

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Seriously, the comfiest shirt I own!

I know you know, but I have to say it anyway…always consult your doctor before beginning an exercise, fitness, and/or diet program.

*Other package options available online. Team Beachbody Club members save 10%, coaches save 25%.

Visit teambeachbody.com for more information on programs, to sign up for Beachbody On Demand, and to request me as your FREE coach! (Note: I will receive a commission from any purchase made through these Beachbody links – see full disclosure for more information.)

Smooth or crunchy?

It’s the age old PB question, but it fits with almond butter too. I’m a smooth gal myself, and my mom likes crunchy. There’s no compromise here; it’s either one or the other.

Fortunately, most companies have caught on. One of these, Barney Butter, has so many awesome flavors and unique combinations such as Vanilla + Espresso, Honey + Flax, and Cocoa + Coconut. Whether you’re looking for super smooth, chunky, or somewhere in between, they’ve got you covered.

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One of my favorite afternoon snacks.

Barney Butter’s almond butters are made with fresh California almonds in a peanut-free and Certified Organic facility. They are also Certified Vegan, Certified Gluten-Free, and Non-GMO Project verified (other than the Honey + Flax). I love that the company uses recycled, BPA-Free jars that can be reused for on-the-go snacking.

Barney Butter comes in snack packs (perfect for on-the-go) and jars (perfect for every day, baking, and eating with a spoon!) Check out their site for a full list of products.

Sometimes you just need a cookie!

Here’s a recipe that’s easy to whip up with ingredients you probably have on hand.

Vanilla Espresso Almond Butter Cookies

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1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter, sofened
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/3-1/2 cup Barney Butter Vanilla + Espresso Almond Butter
1 cup gluten free flour blend
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a medium bowl, beat sugars and butter until smooth.
3. Whisk in vanilla and egg, then almond butter.
4. In a small bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, and salt.
5. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix until just combined.
6. Form dough into 1″ balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet, flatten. (Dough may be sticky.)
7. Bake for 6-8 minutes.
8. Let cool and enjoy!

Visit Barney Butter online for fun recipes with all of the creative almond butter flavors.

 

DISCLOSURE: This post is sponsored, in part, by Barney Butter. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Diary of a Snacker successful. All opinions (and the recipe) are my own.

In an instant!

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Birthday present from my mom!

Last year I kept hearing about the Instant Pot and how amazing it was. “Cook pulled pork in record time!” “Hottest kitchen item around!” “You need to buy this NOW!” I did a little research and was, at first, a bit turned off by the hefty price tag. Then I started to see all of the amazing foods that could be cooked in the pressure cooker, and all of the time saved by using it, and knew I had to have it.

When my mom surprised me with the Instant Pot for my birthday, I was ecstatic. Seriously an amazing gift for a cook (or want to be cook)! I used it that day. And I’ve used it every week since.

It’s taken me a while to actually write up a review because I wanted to make sure I covered everything. I had a lot of questions in the beginning and if you’re on the fence about the purchase, I’m sure you have a ton too.

Below you’ll find some of the basics.

Pronunciation

Instant Pot, not Instapot – for some reason I keep seeing that one floating out there. Two words – okay?

Who is it for?

This product is good for people with 9-5 jobs, those who want to meal prep but just don’t have the time, people who hate cooking, people who love cooking, people who love gadgets. On second thought, this product is good for people.

Is it worth the money?

I get this ALL the time. If you look at the Instant Pot as just a cooking tool, it seems hella expensive. Retail price for the 6 qt 7-in-1 (IP-DUO60) is $99.99, albeit a step down from last year’s going rate of $129.99.

But, in essence, you’re not just buying a cooking tool. You’re getting a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker, steamer, and warmer complete with a sauté/browning feature, neatly packaged into one item. That’s big. As much as I love my Crock-Pot, I haven’t used it once since getting the Instant Pot.

Instead of wondering if it’s worth the money, think about how much your time is worth. If this device can cut cook time by 50 or even 75 percent, would it help you out? Would you be more inclined to cook?

What does it do?

Literally, everything described above. It cooks good meals in record time – think 7 minutes for easy-peel hard boiled eggs, 35-minute shredded chicken, 15-minute chili. If you’ve made your own bone broth, you know it can take 24-48 hours on the stove top and 8+ hours in the slow cooker. With the Instant Pot, you can have it in two.

What are all those buttons?

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Ha. There are a lot of controls and that can be intimidating. You typically won’t use all of them. On any given day I tend to use the bottom 8 and the – + buttons because they really cover everything. The Soup, Rice, etc. just take the guesswork out of manual programming.

  • High Pressure – most meals are cooked on this setting
  • Manual – I make most of my dishes in this setting because I get to control the time (and have found that some recipes require more or less than recommended)
  • Timer – changes the input so you can adjust the time for manual cooking
  • Less & More – adjust the time needed for a particular dish
  • Keep Warm/Cancel – stops the cooking and keeps your dish warm until you’re ready/shuts off the Instant Pot entirely
  • Sauté – a good feature to brown meat before adding the rest of the ingredients to the pot
  • The other buttons are not used as frequently, but I would like to include a video of how and when to use them.

How much liquid do you need?

Rule of thumb is 1-2 cups of liquid for every recipe. So, if you are cooking two chicken breasts, 1 cup of chicken broth (or water) would be sufficient. Add more if you want extra juice. The nice thing about the Instant Pot is that liquid under pressure does not evaporate – if you start out with 1 cup, you’ll end up with 1 cup.

Is it safe?

This isn’t your grandmother’s pressure cooker. You know, the one that used rattle, whistle, and shake like it was going to explode? Now, that was scary.

There are 10 proven safety mechanisms including lid close detection (unit will beep and not start until the lid is properly fastened and locked) and high-temperature warning (pressure will not build up in the pot if there is not enough liquid or moisture).

After reading through your user manual and seeing how it works, you should feel completely comfortable using it.

Note: It is important to only use/buy items and accessories that are manufactured and tested by Instant Pot. In particular, the sealing rings have been tested and passed UL, FDA, and LFGB safety tests. The same cannot be said about 3rd party companies/products.

Does it really cook that fast?

Yes. And maybe not. I don’t want you to get discouraged here, but I have to be honest. Many of the recipes don’t account for the time it takes to pressurize the chamber. So, while hard boiled eggs only take 7 minutes to cook, there is an extra 10-15 minutes of pressure time that must be factored in.

But the unit is amazing and will cook a lot of your slow cooker favorites (think pulled pork) in record time.

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So easy to peel – I wanted to cry tears of joy!

How do you clean it?

It’s easy to clean out the Instant Pot. Just remove the stainless steel cooking pot, scrub with hot soapy water and dry. Clean the lid with a damp cloth or sponge, then remove the inner flexible sealing ring and clean in hot soapy water. The cooking pot and sealing ring can also be placed in the dishwasher. I always wipe down the surface of the unit when done in case there are any spills.

Note: After the first use the bottom of my pot was stained. I scrubbed and scrubbed, but couldn’t get it back to its original state. This has not affected cooking in any way but is worth mentioning in case you experience something similar. If this really bugs you, you can purchase a new pot for around $34 on Amazon.

What items and accessories are available?

There are a number of different accessories made especially for the Instant Pot, including sealing rings, cookbooks, tempered glass lids, silicone safety mitts, etc.

Check out Amazon for a full listing and to purchase.

Why I like it

The Instant Pot is very helpful to me when I’m meal prepping on the weekends and if – no, when – I forget to take the meat out of the freezer before I leave for work.

I’ve never been able to cook anything so fast, so good, and so tender. The meat falls off the bone and shreds easily, meals are more flavorful, and there are so many fun recipes online or you can easily adapt your own. Check Pinterest for ideas. Some of my favorites include Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole and Crack Chicken by Adventures of a Nurse.

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Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

Thanks to the Instant Pot’s growing popularity, there are now several cookbooks specifically for pressure-cooking. My favorite it is Paleo Cooking with Your Instant Pot by Jennifer Robins, one of my favorite girl bosses. Her recipes are easy to follow and taste great.

Besides the normal slow cooker favorites, you can make all sorts of dishes including soup, bread, cheesecake, yogurt, and rice pudding. It’s really a lot of fun!

Bottom Line

This is one of the best investments you can make – and THE best investment for your kitchen. The Instant Pot is a HUGE time saver. That fact, alone, should have you running to Amazon (figuratively, or course) and buying one for you and a friend. If you use it regularly, and you will, it will quickly pay for itself. If you still have hesitations and are uneasy about the price, Amazon has two big sales where you may be able to snag one for a lower price – Prime Day and Black Friday. Be on the lookout!

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Chili in the making!

 

Please Note: This post is not sponsored by Instant Pot and I am not affiliated with the company in any way. I also do not receive any compensation from the Amazon links included above. All opinions are my own.