Instant Pot Jambalaya and Sweet Potato Soul Review

In my small area of the country, we find ourselves at a crossroads between two cultures. We are one part down-home southern and another part yuppy hipster, creating an interesting social mix. There’s  the well-dressed church crowd who stuff themselves into the mom and pop BBQ  joints every Sunday at noon,  but we also have the man bun and skinny-jean wearing crowd who fill Vegan restaurants on Friday nights. My area is an eclectic loop within the Bible belt, and I love it. It reminds me that cultures are not only able to coexist, but they’re also able to intermingle and mix.

If there is one thing both cultures have in common, it’s a love for food. We all agree that food is an enjoyable experience that can magically bring people together. The challenge, however, comes when you begin sifting through various dietary restrictions. Having my own convictions regarding food, I’m well aware of how awkward this situation can be. My primary example being that I have a religious restriction against pork, and yet here I am living down the road from the annual “Ham and Yam” festival. For the vegetarians and vegans that flock to the area, there are obvious clashes when it comes to soulful southern cooking.

This is what makes Jenne Claiborne’s cookbook Sweet Potato Soul a gem. Having grown up in Atlanta, GA Claiborne was raised on traditional southern cooking. After becoming vegan she spent years experimenting with food, working to find the perfect fusion that fits the cuisine of her heritage into vegan standards. Sweet Potato Soul is her successful masterpiece.

The book is filled with 100 easy recipes and a variety of flavors to work with, each page perfectly capturing the essence of both southern and vegan cooking. There are enough photos to satisfy those who tend to”taste with their eyes” when choosing recipes out of cookbooks, and although there are short introductions to each section, the majority of this book is straight to the point with easy to find recipes.

I’m thrilled to work my way through this cookbook, and it is a perfect resource for entertaining friends who avoid the consumption of animal products. For our regular weeknight meals, however, it is totally easy to tweak these recipes in order to satisfy my carnivorous ways. For example, I decided to give her “jackfruit jambalaya”a try (found on page 137), however, instead of dragging myself to the Asian market for jackfruit I used chicken. I also used my instant pot instead of cooking this stove top.

Definitely not vegan like the cookbook intended, and I changed my cooking method in order to utilize kitchen toys, but Claiborne certainly inspired a delicious meal.

Instant Pot Jambalaya


3 chicken breasts
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion (diced)
2 garlic cloves
3  celery stalks (chopped)
1 green bell pepper (chopped)
1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 cup uncooked brown rice
1 (15 oz) can chickpeas
3 cups chicken stock
3 bay leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
*3 Tablespoons creole seasoning
2 teaspoons worcestershire sauce

*A recipe for creole seasoning can be found on page 36 or Sweet Potato Soul)


1) Add chicken breast and 1 cup of water to the instant pot. Cook on high pressure for 10 minutes.

2) When chicken is cooked, remove and set aside. Switch the instant pot to the saute setting and heat olive oil. Once the oil is heated, add onion, garlic, celery, and bell pepper. Saute until onion is transparent.

3) Add tomatoes, rice, chickpeas, bay leaf, pepper, creole seasoning, worcestershire sauce, and salt to taste. Seal the instant pot. Switch the setting to “soup” and cook on high pressure for another 15 minutes. When cooking is finished, unseal the pot and enjoy!

Disclaimer: I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review

Blogging For Books: Everything Beautiful

My most recent Blogging for Books order was a little different this time around. Rather than my typical novel or cookbook, I went with a new adult coloring book titled Everything Beautiful, by Waterbrook.

There is nothing that makes this one stand out from others, however, I found that it provided a relaxing form of entertainment most people expect from an adult coloring book.

The artwork is beautiful, and coloring the simple yet detailed pages helped me decompress from built up stress I had harbored from a long day. The messages formed into the pictures were encouraging, and overall I felt good after spending even just a few moments coloring a page.

Again, Everything Beautiful is not especially unique. It is yet another adult coloring books you find in, say, the book aisle of a grocery store. However, it serves it’s purpose and would make a beautiful gift for someone you love.

Blogging For Books: Seven Spoons, by Tara O’Brady

As I flipped through Seven Spoons by Tara O’Brady, I became extremely inspired to go experiment in my kitchen. The recipes inside are unique and intriguing, and while I have yet to try any of them, I can certainly say they look absolutely delicious. I am  looking forward to the many recipes I will be using soon!

To enhance the experience of flipping through these pages, I found the stories she included particularly interesting. She truly brings out the depth and significance of her food choices. These stories help us see where her inspiration comes from. As a woman with Indian background living in Canada, her recipes are a rich blend of both cultures, which seems to create a very special variety of combinations. Definitely something different from other cook books.

I can tell these recipes are not necessarily meant to be used for the average weeknight dinners, so it’s not something I would turn to on a regular basis. However, it will be among the first resources I search for when preparing special meals, whether they are dinner parties, birthday dinners, or holidays.

I simply cannot wait to get started!

Blogging For Books: The New Sugar and Spice, by Samantha Seneviratne

Ever since receiving a copy of The New Sugar and Spice by Samantha Seneviratne, my mouth has been watering! This cookbook is filled with unique dessert ideas that blend both a sweet and spicy flavor into one dish. There are so many recipes I want to try from this book, and I’m sure that with a number of pot-lucks coming up I will have a chance to jump into them very soon. I’m almost certain they will be a hit!

Many cookbooks these days have a number of personal stories to go along with the recipes. Seneviratne beautifully depicts the significance of food throughout her life (in particular dessert), and it somehow helps to enhance the quality of the recipes she provides. Although I’m not a huge fan of storytelling cookbooks, I appreciate the fact that she took the time to expose the passion behind her food.

I do, however, wish there were more photos to go along with recipes. This book in particular seems to lack photos, which makes it a little less enticing than it would had someone taken a moment to snap a picture. The pictures that do exist, however, are beautiful, and make me want to get started in the kitchen.

For those who love to bake, and especially those who like to experiment with flavor, I would recommend this book in a heartbeat.

For those who want something simple, straightforward, and quick, this is maybe not your cookbook.

For those (like me) who need pictures to go along with their recipes, I would still recommend this one, but with the suggestion that you read over the recipe carefully so as not to miss out on really great recipes simply because there wasn’t a picture to catch your eye.

For those who love to read about people’s personal experience and passion with food alongside the recipes they provide, than this is definitely for you.

Blogging For Books: The Amazing Make Ahead Baby Food Book, by Lisa Barrangou

Although I am no longer dealing with baby food, I really wanted to request a copy of Lisa Barrangou’s The Amazing Make Ahead Baby Food Book from Blogging For Books. I don’t recall ever buying a single jar of baby food for my son, and I absolutely loved making all of his meals. During that time I relied heavily on another book, and wanted to check out more resources for future reference.  I really enjoyed having the opportunity to read over Barrangou’s book, and will keep it in mind for round two (whenever that may be!).

Overall I thought her approach was simple and too the point. If someone is looking to use a particular method of making homemade baby food, she takes one of the more convenient routs. Personally I really enjoyed the way I did things when my son was younger, and will probably only implement some of her suggested methods. That’s not to say I didn’t find value in her book. Even if you’re not looking for directions on how to create a system of making baby food, the book is still great for recipe ideas and extra information regarding nutrition.

Blogging For Books: Bitter, by Jennifer McLagan

I recently received the cookbook Bitter: A Taste of the World’s Most Dangerous Flavors, with Recipes by Jennifer McLagan. It is the first of what I’m assuming to be many books I will be reviewing.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. I have yet to try any of the recipes (for various reasons), but I did learn a great deal about unique foods I had either never heard of, or had little to no experience with. For the average person this one may be a bit overwhelming with information and too much of a culinary adventure. For someone who proudly carries the label of “foodie”, however, I believe this would be an excellent book to pick up.

Not only does this book provide recipes that would challenge a cook to work with new flavors, but it also describes the science, history, and psychology behind certain foods and their bitter flavor (which I found very interesting). It encourages readers to not shy away from using “bitterness” in their cooking, but rather work with it to enhance the culinary experience.

The recipes provided in the book are extremely intriguing, and as soon as I get my chance I will most definitely give them a try. They require various foods that I had never thought to work with, or maybe even heard of. Whether it’s bitter alcohols, chicory, coffee, particular types of chocolate, or dandelions, most of the food in this book would be a very new experience for me, and the majority of Americans. I even came across a recipe that uses tobacco (which is very intriguing, even if I might skip that one).

There were two faults I did have with Bitter, despite finding it intensely fascinating. First of all there were a couple of foods she (McLagan) described in great detail, only to then admit that she never tried them. I found that a little disappointing, since I personally expect the author of a cookbook to have experienced the food they describe in their own writing. The second issue I have is the fact that most of the foods will require me to search through specialty grocery stores. I found very few (if any) recipes that had ingredients I could pick up at my normal everyday store. This I’m willing to forgive since the book doesn’t seem intended for the everyday cooking experience, but it still would have been nice to have at least a couple recipes that were more practical. The regular everyday housewives who don’t get out to specialty stores might want to play with bitter flavors as well!

Overall I’m very glad I have this book around, and I will definitely try a couple of the recipes here and there. Jennifer McLagan has a variety of other cookbooks that seem to be written in the same style, and I do look forward to tracking more of her work down.