Instant Pot Whole30 Moroccan Chicken

My conversion of a slow cooker recipe for a pressure cooker.

I’m trying to do Whole30 these days. It was recommended by a friend late last summer and I hopped on in August. It was a huge change in my diet, mostly because I could no longer eat dairy and grains — and I’d been eating a ton of yogurt and granola for quite some time. But I came to feel that Whole 30’s emphasis on fresh lean meats and vegetables was good for me. It certainly makes me feel healthier.

Lots of folks complain about the amount of cooking you have to do with Whole30. I think that’s what I like best. I can make a batch of something and have leftovers for lunch. I especially love making a big batch of Paleo Moussaka, cutting it into single serving pieces, and freezing it in vacuum sealed packages for a quick and easy meal anytime I want it. And I like the challenge of taking a recipe that’s almost Whole30-compliant and modifying it to be fully compliant.

My friend Elizabeth loaned me a Whole30 cookbook and I browsed through it the other night looking for something new and interesting to make. I found a recipe for Slow Cooker Moroccan Chicken. I love the seasonings in middle-eastern and Moroccan foods so I figured I’d give it a try. But 6 hours in a slow-cooker? No thanks. I’ll make it in my instant pot.

Moroccan Chicken
My version of Moroccan Chicken, served on cauliflower “rice.” 30 minutes from an Instant Pot.

The recipe that follows was my first and very successful attempt. What threw me is that the original recipe did not call for any liquids to be added at all. I’ve never seen a slow cooker or pressure cooker recipe with no liquids, so I added about a half cup of coconut milk that was in my fridge, leftover from another meal I’d made earlier in the week. When I popped the lid on the Instant Pot, I was very surprised to see quite a bit of liquid in the pot, so I’m thinking that the coconut milk listed here isn’t necessary. I’ll leave it out next time.



  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp minced garlic. (I’ll admit it; I used it from a jar.)
  • 2 tsp minced ginger. (I just happened to buy some frozen cubes of ginger earlier in the day and I used that.)
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamon

Other ingredients:

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1-1/2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 5 dates, pitted and sliced or chopped. (In a pinch, you could use the equivalent amount of raisins or prunes instead, but dates are best.)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup coconut milk. (This is optional. See my note above.)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup sliced or slivered almonds, toasted. (I used sliced and did not toast them.)


  1. Combine the seasoning ingredients in a small food processor or blender and process or blend until smooth. The result will be a paste.
  2. Put the onions into the bottom of the Instant Pot’s inner pot.
  3. Poke the chicken all over with a fork and then rub the seasoning paste into them, reserving about 2 tablespoons of the paste. Put the chicken on top of the onions. (I made sure I spread open the thigh pieces so they would cook thoroughly.)
  4. Coat the sweet potatoes with the rest of the seasoning paste. Put them in the pan on top of the chicken.
  5. Sprinkle the dates on top of the sweet potatoes.
  6. If using coconut milk, pour it as evenly as possible over the contents in the pot.
  7. Lock the pot. Press Manual and set the timer for 10 minutes.
  8. Allow the pressure to release naturally for 15 minutes. Open the pot carefully.
  9. Garnish with cilantro and almonds.

You can serve this over cooked cauliflower “rice,” other steamed vegetables (zucchini “noodles” are good for this), or real rice if you’re not following Whole30. The flavor is amazing.

The Long Road Home

I make my way home from my winter travels, slowly but surely.

I’m writing this in my RV at a campsite in Maryhill State Park in Washington State. As I so often do when traveling through the area, I arrived late enough in the afternoon to stop for the night. Yes, home is only a 3-hour drive from here, but I don’t like driving at night. I have come to use Maryhill as a sort of post-trip celebration spot, a place I wind down from a long trip and start getting myself mentally prepared for my return to home.

As usual, the campground is nearly empty and I got a nice pull-through spot along the river. There’s electricity and a sewer dump at my site, but the water is still turned off for the winter. That’s okay; I filled up my fresh water tank in Las Vegas before I left and have plenty of water left.

Away from the Camper

Las Vegas is where I went after my helicopter mishap on February 24. My truck, camper, and boat were waiting there for me in a “storage” site at the Sam’s Town KOA. Although I generally avoid KOA camping, I really do like the one in Vegas for what it is: city camping. With my small rig, I can take one of the double-width sites along the edge of the campground property and not be right on top of my neighbor. I’d parked the boat beside the truck and camper before coming home in mid February to fetch the helicopter and take it down to California for a frost contract. I was able to plug in to power, which saved a ton of propane for the fridge, and the KOA folks charged only $15/day while I was gone. It was good to leave my stuff in a place I knew it would be safe.

The original idea was to go right back to Vegas after tucking the helicopter into a hangar at Yolo County Airport, but the weather in the Sacramento area turned cold and I wound up in a Woodland motel for a week in case I had to fly for frost control.

I spent my days goofing off, going as far as Calistoga for a mud bath and facial one day. (I am a sucker a good facial.) I managed to visit two wineries for tastings before heading back.

When I finally got to fly, the flight was very short with a bad end.

After being discharged from the hospital’s emergency room, my friend Sean took me to see the wreckage and we pulled out the last few personal possessions I had in there. (Sean had already collected quite a few things.) We stowed them in the hangar. Then I drove my rental car to Sacramento Airport, dropped it off, and waited in the terminal for a Southwest flight back to Vegas. With no helicopter or frost contract, there was no reason to stay in Woodland.

In Las Vegas

I was back in my RV by 6 PM. As you might imagine, I had a little trouble getting to sleep. Every time I closed my eyes, I’d see those damn trees in front of me. But putting the TV on seemed to help. And I eventually got a decent night sleep.

I took a full inventory of my bruises the next morning in the shower. That day — Sunday — is when the soreness really kicked in. I later learned that the helicopter impacted the ground at least twice before coming to rest against a small berm in the field where I crashed. I must have been like a rag doll in there with my muscles all tensed up from the adrenaline rush. (I don’t remember any of it, but without a head injury, I don’t think I passed out. It’s just blank.) Once my muscles relaxed a little, every single one of them got sore. The ibuprofen I was taking took the edge off.

I started the active part of my day by repositioning my truck, camper, and boat to a site on the south side of the RV park. It was a nice site with grass behind it — which is good since the camper’s door is in back. I hooked everything up — electricity, water, and sewer — since I’d be staying for the week.

I went to the convention center to meet up with my friend Zac from HAI (Helicopter Association International). The show wasn’t open yet, but he was in charge of guiding the helicopters in to land in the Convention Center parking lot. From there, they were wheeled into the building to be put on display. He got me an exhibitor pass so I could come in for a behind the scenes look at the show getting set up. Later, I joined him outside to watch (and broadcast on Periscope) a few of the helicopters that came in. It was fascinating and a lot of fun, but the walking really took a toll on me. By 5 PM, I was spent.

Show Girl
Eve didn’t like the location of the booth so she hired a model to attract attention to it during the show.

On Monday, I helped my friend’s Jim and Eve, who own Rotorcraft Enterprises, set up their booth at the show. Jim invented Start Pac, a battery device for helping to start turbine engines. He has since branched off into a bunch of other related products, including an APU for jets, a Start Pac for locomotive engines, and small battery devices to provide power when testing avionics on an aircraft. Jim’s a great guy — a former airline pilot who started flying helicopters in retirement. Like me, he lived in Wickenburg and left. I’m sure I’ve written about him elsewhere in this blog.

By the time we’d finished setting up, I was spent (again), but I went with them to lunch at a German restaurant near their office. Eating a good meal really picked me up. But I still went right back to the RV to relax. I slept a lot better that night.

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday were spent at Heli Expo. I chatted with Pat Cox and Tim Tucker at Robinson to tell them about the crash and show pictures. They were very interested and even dragged Kurt Robinson over to see them. They were certain that the helicopter’s bladder tanks, which I’d whined about installing, had saved my life. I talked to the folks at Hillsboro Aviation, which had sold me my R44 back in 2004, about a new helicopter; I’m still waiting for a price quote but seriously doubt I’ll replace it with a new one. (They’re a lot more expensive now!) I walked the entire show floor and found a neat video solution for tours and YouTube videos; I might take the plunge and get a setup this summer. I met up with numerous friends, including one of the few people who had flown my helicopter without me on board and my first flight instructor, who now works for the FAA. I also walked the show floor early one morning, before it was open to the public, to get some really great photos of some of the helicopters there without people hanging all over them. I posted them all to Twitter.

The MD Booth
There’s nothing quite like walking a trade show floor before the public is let in. This is a panorama of the MD Helicopter’s booth on Thursday morning.

I treated myself to dinner at the MGM grand on Wednesday evening before heading back to my camper. And I took a break from the show at midday on Thursday to treat myself to a cocktail and lunch at the Wynn resort. So much of my traveling this winter has been low budget, so it was nice to get a few doses of luxury.

A Parisol Down
I sat along the pond at the Wynn’s Parasol Down cocktail lounge. It was a nice, peaceful escape from the Heli Expo show.

On Thursday afternoon, the show closed promptly at 4 PM. By 4:15, they were wheeling helicopters out the door. I joined my friend Zac again with Jim and another Start Pac employee tagging along to watch the departures. I broadcast on Persicope and they featured the video so I soon had hundreds of viewers. I think a total of 10 helicopters left. The rest would leave the following day. Zac invited me back but I’d had enough.

Leaving Las Vegas

The next morning I had breakfast at nearby Sam’s Town Casino, then packed up leisurely and was on the road by 10 AM. It was wicked windy out as I headed down I-15 toward Los Angeles.

Camping at Lake Isabella
My campsite on the shore of Lake Isabella.

Although I usually drive through Death Valley on my way to Sacramento with my rig, I decided to take a more southern route this time, hoping to avoid snow in the mountain passes near Lake Tahoe. I was aiming for Lake Isabella, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. I arrived about a hour before sunset and got a nice campsite right on the lake.

Lake Isabella at Dawn
I shot this from my camper’s back door at dawn at Lake Isabella. It was an amazingly beautiful morning.

The following morning, I was back on the road. I think it was then that I realized how much I just wanted to be done traveling. So I made my way out of the mountains and joined route 99 north. I took that all the way to Sacramento, then hopped on I-80 to Davis.

In California Again

I stopped at the same hospital I’d been in the week before and checked myself into the ER. A number of friends had suggested that blood clots could be an issue. The bruises on my lower legs were horrendous with a few painful spots. Although I no longer needed ibuprofen for pain, I was starting to wonder whether I had a bigger problem than just bruises.

I stayed for about two hours. They did blood work and used ultrasound to scan my legs for clots. I got a clean bill of health but the doctor suggested that I get it checked again in a week.

I spent the night camped out at the hangar at Yolo County Airport. I parked right next to it. Around 2 AM, Sean arrived and sat in his car, waiting for a call to fly. I didn’t realize he was there until I woke at 4 AM. It was foggy out and the ASOS (Automated Surface Observation System) was reporting freezing fog. Even if he got a call, he couldn’t fly.

The fog was still thick when the sun rose. I got dressed for the day and went into the hangar to organize my personal possessions from the helicopter. I packed them in my truck for the ride home and said goodbye to Sean. I would not be back next year for a frost contract, but there’s a chance he’ll join me in Washington for cherry season this year.

The fog was localized; there was none north of Woodland.

I tried to retrieve my cockpit cover from the salvage guy, but it was Sunday and his place was closed.

I drove up to Williams to have lunch with another pilot fired of mine who was on a frost contract up there. I tolerated his mansplaining about how he finds his orchards in the dark. I deserved the lecture. But, at the same time, it didn’t really matter. I changed the subject.

I thought I might need to meet with the insurance adjuster and Sacramento FAA guy, but they didn’t need to meet with me. That meant I had no reason to stay in the area. So I left. I hopped on I-5, set the cruise control for 62, and headed north.

In Oregon

I tried hard to get to the Seven Feathers Casino in Oregon. Casinos make excellent overnight spots for RVers. They have big parking lots and good security. And being able to go in for dinner or breakfast the next morning is a real plus. But as the sun was getting close to setting, Seven Feathers was still about a hundred miles away and, like I said, I don’t like driving at night. (Besides, I suspect the boat trailer’s running lights aren’t working, although I know the turn signals and brake lights are.) So I wound up in a Walmart parking lot in Medford with about a dozen other RVers.

I walked over to the Outback Steakhouse and treated myself to a blooming onion, which I used to really like. They’re a lot greasier than I remember; I only ate about 1/3 of it.

The next morning, I was back on the road as soon as the sun was up and the overnight frost started to melt. Someone on Twitter had mentioned that the I-5 corridor was IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) and he wasn’t kidding. I drove for two hours through big patches of fog.

My first destination was McMinville Airport where a 2005 R44 was for sale. I had an appointment to meet with the owner at 11 AM. It was a 4-hour drive from Medford and I was a little late because I had to stop for fuel. I saw the helicopter, which is only a few months newer than mine was and it looked fine — but not like mine inside. I still haven’t decided if I’ll put an offer in on it.

From there, I drove another hour north to an Apple Store in Tigard. I had a heck of a time finding parking — the store was in one of those modern outdoor malls designed to look like a downtown area. Nice place and I would have loved to spend the day shopping there, but I had a mission. I needed to buy a new iMac. The one I have at home, which is now 7-1/2 years old, refuses to start. It had been on the fritz for about a year, but it’s now dead. I think it’s a logic board or possible a video card problem. It doesn’t matter. I’m replacing it.

I wound up with a 27-inch iMac. I had to wait while they expanded the RAM from 8 GB to 16 GB. I had lunch at PF Changs while I waited. I ate too much. There was a bit of a challenge getting the computer out to my truck, but the Apple Store folks were helpful. Then I was on my way again.

I hit some early rush hour traffic in Portland — by this time, it was about 3:45 — before getting on I-84 eastbound. This is a really pretty drive along the Columbia River in Oregon, past numerous waterfalls in the Gorge area. I tried two state park campgrounds along the way but both were “closed for winter.” I knew Maryhill would be open. I stopped for fuel one last time in Biggs, OR, then crossed the river and pulled into the site I am in now.

I fed Penny but skipped dinner; I was still full from lunch.

Today’s Drive

The sun is now up, illuminating the basalt cliffs west of the park. The wind turbines up there are glowing bright white but are motionless in the still air. The frost on the ground is just starting to melt. My camper is warm; the small electric heater I brought along has been running all night. My next door neighbors pulled out a few minutes ago; we’ll leave in less than an hour.

Campground View
The view out my back door this morning. Note the frost on my boat cover and grass.

It’s an easy drive up route 97 to I-90 near Ellensburg. From there, I’ll head east to Vantage, cross the river, and come up back roads from George through Quincy to Wenatchee. I might stop at Fred Meyer for groceries to save myself a trip later on.

My house sitter left last night so I’ll have my home to myself. The cats will come out to greet us. I’ll collect this morning’s eggs.

And then I’ll go inside and run the water for a nice, hot bath.

There’s no place like home.

Another Stupid Pilot Trick

An accident fueled by complacency with a very lucky pilot.

It was still dark when the pilot lifted off from the small county airport at 5 AM on Saturday, February 24, destined for the 1,100-acre almond orchard she and the other two pilots on contract were responsible for protecting on a frost control contract. The horizon was barely visible as she climbed to 300 feet, per her altimeter.

On the ground, she had already loaded the moving map image that outlined the orchard and she knew which section of it she was supposed to cover. But as she headed to the orchard about a mile away, the moving map wasn’t indicating her position, making it impossible for her to determine where she was in relation to it.

She checked her altitude again, then reached forward to tap-tap-tap on the iPad’s screen — as she had hundreds of times since the iPad had become her FAA-approved electronic flight bag six or seven years before. The usual routine was tap-tap-tap and then look up to confirm all was okay before another tap-tap-tap. But this time, when she looked up that first time, she saw a row of tall trees right in front of her.

“Oh, shit,” she thought. “This is it.”

She’s not sure whether she pulled back on the cyclic in a vain attempt to avoid the trees, but she knew it wouldn’t matter anyway. Collision was impossible to avoid. Oddly, it happened so quickly that she didn’t even have time to be afraid.

She may have closed her eyes as she went through the trees because she doesn’t remember seeing anything. But she heard the racket as the helicopter’s 16-foot blades, moving at roughly 400 RPM, impacted branches as they pushed through the trees. The tail rotor, skids, and horizontal stabilizers were ripped off but the helicopter’s fuselage kept moving. The pilot didn’t feel the impacts as the helicopter struck the ground once or twice in an open field on its way to its final resting place about 100 yards away from the trees, facing the direction from which it had come.

On realizing that she was on the ground and still alive, the pilot fumbled for her seatbelt and got it open. She climbed out of the wreckage.

Text Message

The next few minutes are hazy to her. She saw the fire back behind the engine. She was worried that the other pilots, who had departed after her, might see it and think she was hurt so she texted one of them. That was at 5:04 AM.

Then she found the fire extinguisher. While she has no memory of using it — in fact, she thought later that it was broken — she may have pulled the pin and used it to try to extinguish the flames. (According to the police, someone did and she was the only one there.)

She may have still had it in her hand when the phone started ringing at 5:17 AM. It was the pilot she had texted. She told him what happened, assured him that she was okay, and told him to keep flying.

The engine fire got a little bigger. She decided it would be a good idea to move away.

Still not thinking clearly, she called her insurance agent, who is also a friend of hers. It was 5:23 AM and she was on the phone with him for 9 minutes, although she doesn’t remember talking that long. She does remember feeling the pain in her right leg around that time and looking down to see the huge swollen bruise forming. She started wondering if maybe she had broken her leg and decided to sit down. He asked if she’d called 911 and she said she hadn’t. The thought hadn’t occurred to her.

She hung up and called 911. That was at 5:34 AM. She told the woman who answered that she had been in a helicopter crash and that she was okay but might have a broken leg. She said there was a fire but it didn’t look bad. The 911 dispatcher asked for her position and she was able to use Google Maps on her phone to provide cross streets. The dispatcher said she’d send the police and fire truck and EMS helicopter. The pilot, now sitting on the ground as the sky was brightening, begged her not to send a helicopter. She didn’t need it and she wasn’t going to pay for it. She must have said that a dozen times.

The 911 operator kept the pilot talking on the phone until emergency services arrived. “Let me know when they’re right next to you,” she said.

That happened 22 minutes after making the call. There was an ambulance and maybe a fire truck and a police car. Two medics came up to her. A while later, they were helping her into the back of a pickup truck’s crew cab for the short ride across the field to the ambulance. At her request, someone fetched her iPad from the wreckage, along with her purse. She didn’t realize it, but the fire was already out.

In the ambulance, the medics wanted to start an IV. She told them not to. She said she wasn’t hurt that badly.

In the hospital emergency room, they wanted to cut off her pants. She wouldn’t let them. Instead, she got undressed, wondering how she’d gotten grass stains all over her pants, and slipped into the hospital gown they provided.

They started an IV. They dressed a cut on one leg. The bruise there was huge and swelling bad.

They sent her to pee in a cup to make sure there wasn’t any blood in her urine. She was surprised they didn’t want to do a drug test.

The adrenaline that had been running through her veins started to wear off and she found herself shaking. They put a warm blanket around her.

People called on her phone. The other pilot she’d been flying with. Her insurance agent friend. The NTSB. Another pilot who didn’t know about the crash but was looking for a landing light to replace one that had gone out on his helicopter that morning. She talked to them all before 7:30 AM, grateful that the emergency room staff had let her keep her phone.

They took her to get her leg X-rayed. They did her spine, too, even though she didn’t feel any pain there. Around then, she noticed her right hand scraped up and swelling. In the days to come, she’d notice other bruises and scrapes in other places.

A doctor came to tell her that there were no broken bones. He pressed down on various places to see if there was pain in her abdomen. There wasn’t. Just her leg, really. He offered her a pain killer. She told him that most prescription painkillers didn’t work for her so she’d still with ibuprofen. A nurse came with a 600 mg dose.

The doctor offered her an overnight stay for observation. She declined. She checked out of the hospital at 8:29, just three and a half hours after the accident.

When I climbed out of the cockpit, I didn’t realize it was lying on its side. I’m still not sure if I came through the door or the windscreen.

The pilot she’d been working with, took her to see the wreckage. By that time, it was fully daylight out. She was surprised the helicopter was lying on its side; she thought it had been upright. She was also surprised by how beat up it was.

And that’s when she started to realize that she might be the luckiest person on the planet that morning.

Wondering why I know so much about this crash? By this point, it should be pretty obvious.

I was the pilot.

Yes, I crashed Zero-Mike-Lima last Saturday morning at around 5 AM. I crashed it because I was stupid and allowed myself to be distracted while flying at night. The fact that I’m alive to tell people about it amazes me every single day. In fact, when I was in the hospital I developed a notion, fed by a life of reading science fiction, that I had actually died and the “afterlife” was just a continuation of real life.

But I’m here and I’m embarrassed.

Can you say “totaled”?

Throughout this blog, you’ll find posts where I analyze various helicopter crashes. The vast majority of crashes are due to pilot error and my crash is no different. I’ve got about 3700 hours in helicopters, including more than 2200 hours in the one I crashed — hell, I owned it for 13 years! — and I still made a stupid mistake that destroyed the helicopter and could have taken my life.

I’m really not in the mood to analyze what happened now. Hell, it took me a week to write this. It’s actually pretty straightforward: I allowed myself to get distracted while flying at night relatively close to the ground. Duh. You can’t perform a much stupider pilot trick than that.

Various people at Robinson Helicopter saw the photos — I was at Heli Expo this past week — and pretty much agree that the bladder tanks, which I whined about back in 2012, probably saved my life. So there’s that crow to eat, too.

There is some good news in all this — other than the fact that I’m alive, no one else was hurt, and there was no property damage (other than those trees): the helicopter was fully insured and I’m already shopping for its replacement. In fact, I put an offer on a nearly identical helicopter just yesterday. So I’ll be back in business soon enough.

And you can bet your ass that I won’t be on a frost control contract next year or ever again.

I debated leaving comments open for this post. I’m not sure if I want to address them given how I feel about what happened. But I’ll give it a try.

If you want to tell me how stupid and/or lucky I am, fine, but do it gently. I already know. Read the Comments Policy if you’re not sure whether what you have to say will be approved. If the comments section turns into a “let’s beat up on Maria” party, I’ll shut it down.