Pressure Cooker Carnitas

Another pressure cooker recipe.

I’m hooked on this damn pressure cooker. I still can’t believe how tender and juicy meat comes out after cooking for less than an hour.

After Tweeting about the first time I used it, one of my Twitter friends, Laura suggested carnitas. When I asked for a recipe — fully expecting a link — she gave me basic instructions. Very basic. Too basic for me.

So I Googled it and found a recipe on I modified it for my own tastes and pressure cooker. Here’s how I made it. And yes, it came out amazingly good.


  • 2-1/2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1-1/2-inch cubes. I used the country style spareribs and trimmed much of the fat off.
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil. I used olive oil because that’s what I have in the pantry.
  • 2 poblano peppers, roughly chopped. I used 3.
  • 3 jalapeño peppers, roughly chopped. I used 1.
  • 1 serrano pepper, roughly chopped
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped. I used garlic from my garden, which was a real pain in the butt to peel.
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 cups beef broth. I used about a cup, which I made with water and powered bouillion. Next time, I’ll use 1/2 cup.


  1. Heat oil and brown pork cubes on all sides.
  2. Stir in remaining ingredients.
  3. Lock down the pressure cooker and cook for 45 minutes. (The recipe stated 60 minutes on medium pressure, but my pressure cooker does low or high — not medium. So I took a wild guess and reduced the time. It worked fine.)
  4. At the end of the cooking period, vent the steam, open the cooker, and serve.

While it cooked, I made guacamole with onions and tomatoes from my garden. I served it with corn tortillas I happened to buy yesterday. It needed salt and pepper to taste. The finished product wasn’t very spicy; I probably could have used more jalapeño peppers. But the meat was, once again, fork tender. And so juicy!

Moroccan Lamb Tajine

I discover pressure cooking — and love the results.

Yesterday, experimented with a cooking technique that rocked my culinary world: pressure cooking.

The Instant Pot

For years, I thought the only way to get a nice, rich stew with fork-tender pieces of meat was to slow cook it for five or more hours, often in a crock pot. With cool autumn weather coming on, I started thinking about new recipes for hearty stews — comfort food after a long day outdoors hiking or doing yard work. Trouble was, I’d sacrificed my old crock pot — which had to be at least 25 years old — to beeswax processing duties and it was no longer fit to make a meal. I’d done this on purpose to force me to buy a new one with modern features and the time had arrived.

Of course, I’d also been thinking about something to make it easier for me to make yogurt. And I’d been told over and over by friends that I needed a rice cooker. I’d already gotten an ice cream maker. With my mixer, toaster, food processor, and similarly sized appliances, the pantry shelf I’d dedicated to countertop appliance storage was quickly filling up. The ice cream maker and bread machine were already stored in the garage because I didn’t expect to use them very often. I didn’t want any more appliances than I needed. (And, as usual, I use the word “need” very loosely here.)

Instant Pot
The Instant Pot IP-DUO60 7-in-1 Programmable Pressure Cooker.

So I was pretty interested in the Instant Pot I found on This single device offered seven functions:

  • pressure cooker
  • slow cooker
  • rice cooker
  • sauté/browning
  • yogurt maker
  • steamer
  • warmer

My experience with the computer world taught me one thing: if any piece of software or device claims to do multiple, only slightly related things, it won’t do any of them well. Think about integrated software like Microsoft Works. Word processor, spreadsheet, database all in one package. But none of those pieces were powerful enough for a serious user.

I figured how good could this be? I kept looking.

But I kept coming back to the Instant Pot. With a 4+ rating from 3,960 customer reviews, it had to be good. I started reading reviews.

And I was sold. I bought one last week.

The Recipes

I won’t go into details about the Instant Pot — after all, this is not a product review. I’ll just say that it seems to be well designed and easy to use. I like the stainless steel pot. It’s a good size that fits nicely on my kitchen island when in use and on the shelf in my pantry when not in use.

The Instant Pot comes with two books: an instruction manual in multiple languages and a recipe book in English and what looks like Chinese. Why Chinese? Well, not only is this made in China (like the rest of the merchandise sold in this country), but many of the recipes have an Asian flair. Apparently, devices like this are popular in Asia.

I needed a recipe for its inaugural use, so it made sense to take a recipe from the recipe booklet. These were written specifically for this device and instructions tell you exactly which buttons to push. For example, you start by sautéing onions and browning meat using the sauté feature. Then you seal it up and switch to pressure cooking with that feature. The instructions tell you which buttons to push, thus giving you a use tutorial. It was great to be able to cook the entire meal in one dishwasher-safe pot.

Anyway, here’s the recipe without the Instant Pot-specific instructions; if you have a pressure cooker, you can probably make this at home in yours.


  • 2-1/2 to 3 pounds of lamb shoulder, cut into pieces. Lamb is not a big seller here in Washington state and I was fortunate enough to be at the supermarket when several packages of lamb were marked 50% off for quick sale. I bought 3 racks of lamb and a boneless leg of lamb that day, saving about $30, and popped them all in my chest freezer. Yesterday, I pulled out that leg of lamb, defrosted it, and cut it into pieces for this recipe.
  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1 tsp ginger powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 4 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed. I got lazy and used about a teaspoon of garlic powder.
  • 2 onions, roughly sliced
  • 10 oz prunes, or a mix of dry apricots and raisins. I used the prunes. I actually like prunes.
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup vegetable stock. I used water plus 1-1/2 tablespoons of Better than Bouillion. (Next time, I’ll reduce this to 1/2 cup total liquid.)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 tbsp honey. I used honey from my own bees, of course.
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 1/2 oz almonds, toasted
  • sesame seeds


  1. Mix the cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, and garlic with 2 tablespoons of olive oil to make a paste. Spread the paste over the meat and set aside.
  2. Put the prunes in a bowl and add enough boiling water to cover. Cover and set aside.
  3. Heat a pan and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the onions. Cook until softened, about 3 minutes.
  4. Remove the onions and set aside.
  5. Add meat to pan and brown on all sides, about 10 minutes.
  6. Add the vegetable broth and deglaze the pan, scraping all browned bits into the sauce.
  7. Put the meat, broth, onions, bay leaf, and cinnamon stick into a pressure cooker. Seal and cook for 35 minutes.
  8. At the end of the cooking cycle, allow pressure to release on its own. That could take up to 20 minutes. Open the cooker when safe.
  9. Add drained, rinsed prunes and honey.
  10. Reduce the liquid by simmering, uncovered, for about 5 minutes.
  11. Sprinkle with toasted almonds and sesame seeds and serve.

The best part about the Instant Pot is that all of the cooking steps can be done in the same pot. No moving ingredients from one cooking vessel to another when switching from sauté to pressure cook to sauté. So at the end of all this, there’s just one pot to clean and the countertop stays remarkably neat.

The Big Surprise

I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting anything special. After all, I’d only cooked the meat for a total of 45 minutes. How tender could it possibly be?

The answer: very tender. The meat was moist but tender enough to break up with a fork. And it was absolutely delicious. I served it over a mixture of rice and quinoa.

So, as you can imagine, I’m thrilled with pressure cooking as an alternative to the all-day crock pot routine. Look at the facts: the pressure cooker enabled me to cook a good, hearty stew that was both tender and tasty, in less than an hour. Who wouldn’t be thrilled?

Got a pressure-cooker recipe to share? Leave a comment on this post so we can all see and try it.

More Helicopter Charter Company Advice

You need a business plan? Do it right.

I need to start this blog post by reporting that at this moment, there are 2,214 items in my email Inbox, 64 of which have not yet been read. See?

My email inbox is really out of control.

So maybe you can understand why you’ll find this paragraph on the Contact Me page of this site:

I cannot provide career advice of any kind, whether you want to be a writer or a helicopter pilot. The posts in this blog have plenty of advice — read them. There’s a pretty good chance that I’ve covered your question here in a blog post.

Yet the contact form on that page continues to be used by pilots requesting career or business-related information. Apparently these people have failed to read or understand the paragraph right above the contact form, which says:

First, read the above. All of it. Now understand that if you contact me by email for any of the above reasons, I’m probably not going to respond.

I don’t know any way to be more clear than that.

So yes, I get dozens of email messages every month from people who either can’t read or comprehend the above-quoted paragraphs. And I delete just about every single one.

You want more about this? Read this.

So Outrageous It Needs an Answer

That said, here’s today’s question from a reader in Germany, a question I found so outrageous that I fired up my blog composition app and started typing.

Hi Maria,

i like your blog and read it nearly every week. I am a helicopter pilot too and try now to realize my own company next to my job at airbus helicopters.
I am just at the point: How can i buy a helicopter R44 like you ???

I know it is not easy but i have to create a concept for my bank.

Where do I begin?

How I Bought My Helicopter

How did I buy my R44? I sold my R22 and an apartment building I owned, took the proceeds plus a $160,000 loan from AOPA’s aircraft lending program, and handed it over to Robinson Helicopter. I then paid back that loan over eight years at about $2,100/month — while I covered my living expenses and all the costs of operating my business.

How did I buy the R22 and an apartment building? I worked my ass off as a writer, working 12-hour days, for more month-long stretches than I care to remember, writing books about how to use computers. I wrote 85 of them in 25 years and some of them did very, very well. But instead of pissing the money away on stupid things to keep up with the Joneses, I invested it in real estate and my future.

Through hard work and smart money management, I became a helicopter pilot without incurring a penny of debt and I acquired the assets I needed to build my helicopter charter company.

That’s what I did. Are you ready to do that, too?

Me and My Helicopter

First of all, I my entire guide for starting a helicopter charter business can be found in a post coincidentally titled “How to Start your Own Helicopter Charter Business.” Someone interested in doing this should probably start there. You want to know how you can do what I did? That blog post, which was written way back in 2009 and has been sitting on this blog waiting for folks to read it since then, explains exactly what I did.

So even though this person claims to read my blog “nearly every week,” this person hasn’t bothered to use the search box at the top of every single page to find blog entries that might have been missed that might have the information wanted. Instead, I’m expected take time out of my day — time that might be used to clear out some of the crap in my inbox — to explain how to write a business plan for a helicopter charter company.

Because that’s what needed here: a business plan.

Business Plan Resources

Most people can’t do what I did to start their own helicopter charter company. Those are the people who need business plans because they need a lender to give them the money that they need to acquire the assets that they need to start their business.

There are no shortcuts. Either you have the money and can spend it or you need to find a lender who will give it to you. And that lender is going to need some proof that you know everything about your business before you even start it.

That’s what business plans do: They help you understand every aspect of the business you want to start. They also prove to a lender that you’ve thought it through and that it has the potential to make a profit so they can get their money back.

There are countless sources of free information about creating business plans. Many of them are online. Google “How do I create a business plan?” and see for yourself. An especially good resource is the U.S. Small Business Administration‘s Create Your Business Plan page. These are also the folks who can help you get a loan through their own program.

Like reading books? (I hope someone still does.) A search of for “creating a business plan” yields a list of more than 2,900 books on the topic. Isn’t it worth investing a few dollars to help you do this right?

I Can’t Do It for You

Living the Dream?
People tell me that I’m “living the dream” and lately I think I agree. But it wasn’t luck or charity that got me here. I did it all myself, despite numerous obstacles, and I’m proud of it. When you achieve your goals through your own efforts, you’ll be proud, too.

If this post comes across as a snarky rant, it’s because that’s the way I feel about this. I’m really tired of people trying to get me to help them achieve their goals.

No one helped me. No one. In fact, too many people close to me tried to hold me back.

A professional pilot friend told me I was a fool to think I could start a career as a pilot so late in life. (I was 39 when I got my private pilot certificate.) He told me I’d never make any money.

My mother cried when I bought my first helicopter. She was convinced that I’d die in a fiery crash. (She also cried when I left my full-time job as a financial analyst to become a freelance writer.)

My wasband tried to talk me out of buying the R44. He should have know as well as I did how impossible it was to build any kind of charter business with an R22. He also tried to keep me from traveling to Washington state each summer — by endlessly trying to make me feel guilty about the trips — where I finally found the work I needed to make my company profitable. (I only wish I’d chosen my business over him about 10 years earlier.)

No one told me what I’d later learn through trial and error about advertising, getting maintenance done, finding clients, and building a niche for my services. (I’ve blogged extensively about all these things here.)

Every helicopter charter business is different. The only business I know about is mine — and I’ve shared most of what I know on this blog. It’s here for anyone willing to take the time to look for it. (Hint: there’s a Search box at the top of each page.)

I cannot be expected to cook up an all-purpose formula that will work for anyone who wants to create a business like mine where they live. And even if I could, I wouldn’t. Any business with that formula would fail. Why? Because if the business owner doesn’t fully understand his/her business, he can’t possibly make it succeed.

So my advice to those of you interested in starting a helicopter charter business is this: stop looking for someone to do the hard part for you. Do your homework. Analyze the market. Gather information about costs. Check out the competition. And then write a complete, thorough business plan.

If you can succeed at doing that on your own, you might have a shot at succeeding in your business.

Mobile Mansion for Sale

Perfect for snowbirds or a life on the road.

Back in 2010, I bought a 2010 Montana Mountaineer 5th wheel RV. I chose it after looking at well over 100 RVs of all sizes. At the time, I thought it was a “Perfect” RV.

Mountaineer 324RLQ Floor planHere’s the floor plan for my mobile mansion.

And it was. At the time, anyway. I bought an RV large enough for two people and a mid-sized dog to live comfortably for 4 to 6 months out of the year. It would need plenty of space, a comfortable dining area, a cozy queen sized bed, and a dedicated office area where I could spread out while working on books. And the kitchen would have to have enough space to prepare meals for two.

You see, the man I was married to had promised that he’d join me on the road in the summer months when he turned 55 in 2011. Buying the RV was just one of the preparations I made for him to leave the latest in a series of dead-end jobs, join me in Washington during the summer months, and chase his own dreams back in Arizona in the winter.

But although I trusted that man to keep his promises, he didn’t. Maybe he never intended to. Instead, he came up with another plan — one that didn’t include me. The divorce proceedings began in the summer of 2012.

Do you know how many books I wrote at this desk? And yes, that’s an HDTV — one of two in the RV.

In a way, it’s a good thing I bought what I came to call the “mobile mansion.” It gave me a very comfortable place to live in the months between when I left my Arizona home and when my new home in Washington was ready to be occupied.

Unfortunately, however, it’s a lot more RV than I want or need for the winter travel I’d like to make part of my rebooted life. Yes, it’s spacious and comfortable and it’s easily towed behind my 1-ton Ford diesel truck. But it’s a pain to park and it doesn’t fit into many of the tight spaces I’d like to go. It’s perfect for a snowbird — someone who wants to go south for the winter (or north for the summer) and just park in one or two places for the season. But to travel? To move every few days? Not practical.

So I want to downsize. I’d like to replace the mobile mansion with a bumper-pull trailer that’s under 20 feet in length and has no slides. Something light that I can pull with a 1/2- or 3/4-ton truck. Something that’s easy to park, even in tight spots. Something for a life on the go.

That’s why the mobile mansion is for sale. I’ve got it listed on RV Trader and on Craig’s List, as well as in a few local places. If you’ve been thinking of joining the ranks of snowbirds — or breaking free from your nine-to-five grind to start a life of adventure on the road (in comfort) — this might be the perfect solution for you.

This Can Be Yours!
This whole rig can be yours for just $42K!

The asking price? $32,900 for the RV — pay the asking price and I’ll deliver it within 500 miles of 98828 at no extra charge. You can get a NADA Guide RV value and specifications here; just keep in mind that the value doesn’t include the solar setup.

If you want the truck with it, the price is $42,000 firm for the whole rig. You can buy them as a starter kit and hit the road before the first snow falls!

Finally Unpacking My Heirloom Lamps

I unpack two prized possessions and tell the story of why they’ve been in boxes for three full years.

On Wednesday, I finally unpacked two of my most prized possessions: my antique lamps.

I have two of them, a Jefferson and a Handel (no, not a “Pairpoint Puff,” whatever that is). Their style is called “reverse painted” — scenes are hand-painted on the inside of a glass lampshade. When the lightbulbs under the shades are turned on, they light up the scene. They’re absolutely gorgeous, especially when lighted in an otherwise dark room. They date back to the 1920s, when they could be had for about $20-$30. They’re worth considerably more now.

Jefferson Lamp Handel Lamp
Photos of my two lamps in my old home. These must be old shots; the coatrack behind the Handel was replaced in the mid 2000s with a lodgepole coatrack my wasband gave me for Christmas.

Note from Grandma
I took a picture of this note from my grandmother as a keepsake and it’s a good thing I did. It was evidence that I’d gotten the lamp prior to my marriage. The piece of tape with my name on it was stuck on the lamp for years; my grandmother wanted everyone to know that I should get the lamp when she died. In the end, she gave it to me four years before she died and I brought it from New Jersey to Arizona on the plane.

I got the Jefferson (the smaller blue one) from my grandmother before she died in 2002. I bought the Handel from my godfather, an antique dealer who specialized in lamps, a year or two later. The two lamps were accent pieces in the living room of my Arizona home.

Until I packed them.

When I got home from Washington in September 2012, my main concern was packing up my belongings in preparation to leave my home. You see, my husband at the time had found himself a new mommy/girlfriend online while I was gone, a desperate old whore 8 years older than him — yes, I know because everyone says it: bizarre — who would take my place in his life. (Or try to.) My now wasband had assured me that he wanted a quick settlement so we could save money on legal fees and get on with our lives. I figured I had just a few weeks to pack up my belongings and move out. The ones that meant the most to me would be packed first: the lamps and my Navajo rug.

An Update on the Divorce Book

My divorce was finally settled about a month ago — more than three years after my husband told me, on my birthday, that he wanted a divorce. It was a crazy, traumatic part of my life that I’m still in disbelief about. How can a good and reasonable man become so angry, vindictive, and delusional?

Back in 2013, I blogged about the contract I’d been offered for a book about the divorce. The book was delayed until the divorce was completely settled. For a while, I didn’t want to write it anyway — there was too much pain when I thought about how my wasband had thrown away the incredible life we were on the verge of having together. (As Adele says in this song, we could have had it all.) But as my new life got better and better and I saw how much I’d been able to achieve without him, I realized how much he’d held me back. I was truly so much better off without him. And while the pain of his betrayal will always be with me to some extent, I can now laugh with my friends over the things he and that old whore did to try to force me to settle, especially during the first year of the divorce process. And the appeal. And his attempt to get the appeals court to reconsider their decision. He’s crazy — that’s clear. And the story is incredible. It would make good reading.

A project for this winter? I think so. I think it’s time. And I have plenty of blog posts, email messages, and court documents to back up my tale. I think I might even get a chance to reveal the slutty 30-year-old lingerie photos the old whore sent him as part of her seduction routine. The playing cards I had made with those images are a real hit with friends. I wonder if he uses the two decks I left behind for him?

It’s a shame, really. As it turned out, my wasband wasn’t the least bit interested in a reasonable settlement. Not only did he want the paid-for house and everything in it, but he expected me to pay off the $30K balance on the home equity line of credit, give him another $50K in cash, and walk away with my business assets and retirement funds — most of which had been acquired before our six-year marriage. When I refused, and he refused my generous counteroffer, the lengthy (and costly) divorce battle began, made even lengthier by his repeated failure to comply with court orders and his delaying of the divorce court dates. So, as a result, I was stuck in the house until May 2013, with plenty of time to pack. I could have packed the lamps last and enjoyed them those last eight and a half months at home.

(And if you’re wondering how it all turned out, my wasband lost. And he lost his appeal, too. And he wound up paying me more than I’d asked for in my counteroffer back in December 2012. So much for saving money on legal fees. It cost him more than $200K than it could have to end the marriage, and he didn’t even get to keep the house. What an idiot. I swear he wasn’t this stupid — or greedy — when I married him. He must have picked up those traits from the old whore.)

Anyway, my lamps and rug were packed first. I packed them carefully, with plenty of packing paper and bubble wrap in a huge box. I nestled the two shades, one inside the other, with bubble wrap between them. The lamp bases went below them with their tops boxed up and cardboard separating their part of the big packing box from the glass shades. The rug went on top. I also packed the wooden “building” that goes with my Hummel nativity set — another heirloom item — along one side of the same box. (The figurines were also packed early on, but in a separate box better suited for their size.)

Boxes in Hangar
I stored my possessions in my old hangar until they could be moved to Washington. This shot was taken the day I moved out of my Wickenburg home: May 30, 2013.

The box with the lamps went right from the house to the hangar I rented at Wickenburg Airport. They sat there, on a pallet in case of flooding, for a full year.

Moving Day
The movers to my Wickenburg hangar in September 2013.

In September (no, not June) of 2013, movers transported everything in the hangar from Wickenburg Airport to Wenatchee Airport, where I was renting another hangar. The boxes remained stacked up in the new hangar.

Wenatchee Hangar
Most of my worldly possessions were stored in a hangar I rented in Wenatchee from September 2013 through June 2014. Boxes, vehicles, cargo trailer, and boat on right, furniture on left, helicopter with ATV in center for easy access to door.

Items Stored In Building
Here’s a shot from above after my friends helped me move everything into my building in June 2014. What a mess!

In June 2014, my friends helped me move everything from that hangar into my new building at my new home. The boxes were stacked haphazardly all over the back of the building. I moved them into the middle of the building and later, when I needed to get the RV in, moved them to the shop area. Sometime during the winter, I organized them by room so I could find things I needed to get at.

With all of these moves, the lamps’ box had been somewhat crushed by having other boxes stacked on top of it. I became a bit afraid to open it up. I was worried that the lamp shades — remember, they’re made of glass — had been damaged.

But this week, I decided that it was time. I had some friends coming from Auburn for a visit to see my new home. I’d already had custom end tables made and they’d been in my living room, looking bare, for about a month. There were only three things the living room needed to be finished: windowsills, a coffee table, and the lamps. The room would look more finished with the lamps. I wanted the room to look as finished as possible before my friends arrived so I had to get the lamps in place.

I unpacked the lamps on Wednesday. I still can’t believe how much paper was in that box. I certainly do know how to pack! And I’d worried for no reason: they were in perfect condition.

It took me four trips to bring them up from the garage: one each for the lamp bases and one each for the shades. I wasn’t taking any chances. I’d carry each one carefully.

I put the Handel on the table closest to the kitchen and the Jefferson on the table closest to the deck door and my desk. (Another heirloom lamp, my monkey lamp, is already on my desk.)

They looked beautiful in my nearly finished room. I took a picture. On Friday, I shot a video of the room and shared it here on Saturday.

Lamps in Living Room
The lamps, one on either end of the nine-foot sofa, almost complete the living room.

Reverse Painted Lamps at Night
My lamps look best at night, when they provide the only illumination in a room.

Last night, I settled down for an hour or so on the sofa in front of the TV. I remembered the lamps. I killed all the lights in the room and turned on both lamps. They cast the perfect amount of light for an evening of relaxation in my new living room.

After three years in a box, I finally get to really enjoy them.

The ironic part about all this: I’ll get more use and enjoyment out of them here, in a room I use every day, than I got during the 10+ years they were in my Arizona living room, a room I only used when I had guests. And every time I light them up, I’ll think about the people I got them from: my grandmother and godfather, both now gone.

Thanks Grandma and Jackie! I’m taking good care of them.