From ‘Digester’ to the Modern-Day Instant Pot!

In my new contemporary western romance, A COWBOY AND A PROMISE, my hero’s (Beau) mother brings dinner out to the family’s ghost town resort under construction by my heroine (Ava). She made the meal, appropriately titled “Cowboy Stew” (recipe below) in a slow cooker, often called a Crockpot.

Now, I’d warrant all of you reading this has had a Crockpot at one time in your life. Maybe you still do. While the first slow cooker was actually invented in 1940, most of us will remember the Rival Crockpot, which was officially introduced in 1971 and quickly grew to be the RAGE. I got married in 1975, and you didn’t have a bridal shower (or a wedding) until you got a Rival Crockpot as a gift. We all did. In fact, I still have mine. A 4-

Rival Crockpot

quart, bright orange model. Works great to this day.

As my family grew, I graduated to a 6-quart model which I love, too. However, as most things go, even what’s been wildly popular will eventually lose its stardom for something new and exciting.

Enter the Instant Pot.

Instant Pot

Oh, be still my heart. I got mine for Christmas. A complete surprise cooked up (pardon the pun) by my daughters who thought I needed one. I admit to being quite intimidated by it at first. In fact, I didn’t even take it out of the box for a week. But once I did, and I accomplished the first step—boiling water, by the way—I was hooked.

Believe it or not, pressure cookers have been around a very long time.  The first one was


invented by a French physicist in 1679, which he called the digester. Yuck. But the name stuck for a couple of centuries, until it was replaced with ‘pressure cooker’ by the military who needed a way to make fast meals in camps, as well as other inventors working to improve canning and beef extract production.  

As the years rolled by, the pressure cooker became smaller, more user friendly, and made cooking and preserving food more economical. I’m quite sure no one expected the primitive digester to evolve into an Instant Pot that can make everything from hard-boiled eggs to yogurt so fun and easy!

Here’s the recipe for my Cowboy Stew. I’ve had this recipe for ages, and I’ve made it in my Rival Crockpot too many times to count. Beau and Ava enjoyed it, too!

Cowboy Stew


4 medium potatoes, sliced

4 large carrots, sliced

1 green pepper, cut in strips

3 stalks celery, sliced

1 medium onion, sliced in rings

Arrange in Crockpot in layers, beginning with the potatoes. Salt and pepper each layer.

Pour 1 8 oz can of tomato sauce on top.

Mix well in a bowl:

1 lb. hamburger

½ cup milk

1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 slice bread, crumbled

Salt and pepper to taste

Press into circle over vegetables to form a cover. Pour another can of tomato sauce on top.  Sprinkle with ½ tsp. oregano leaves.

Cook until meat and vegetables are done. May be baked in 350 degree oven for one hour, or until vegetables are tender.

***** ***** ***** *****

Here’s my favorite Instant Pot recipe. Since IP recipes tend to be lengthy from the steps needed, I won’t type it all out, but I’ll give you the link from the food blog, Rachel Cooks. It’s DELICIOUS!

Instant Pot Pasta with Sausage, Spinach and Tomatoes

Have you ever used a pressure cooker? Do you have a slow cooker? Is it a RIVAL? How about an Instant Pot? Do you love it? Hate it? Share recipes!

Join in, and you’ll be eligible to win a $5 Amazon gift card!




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Pam has written 30 romances, most of them historical westerns, but her newest releases are contemporary sweet romances featuring the Blackstone Ranch series published by Tule Publishing. Stay up on the latest at

41 thoughts on “From ‘Digester’ to the Modern-Day Instant Pot!”

  1. I only cook my red beans ( pinto’s) in a pressure cooker just lime my mom. They turn out perfect every time. Your book sounds delish and so Does your recipe. Thank you for sharing.

    • Oh, yes, beans are great in a pressure cooker! I must admit to being a bit afraid of the older models, but the Instant Pot makes me feel safe when I use it.

  2. I want an instant pot so bad but haven’t broken down and bought myself one at my income but maybe sometime this year. I hate that I didn’t get one when they were on sale over the holidays but there were just too many other holiday expenses. I love my slow cooker and use it often. I have used a pressure cooker but its been a long time.

    • I’ve yet to read one of your books and would love the opportunity. I’m on my 22nd book for the year and my 219th book since starting to read again in November 2019 after decades of not reading.

      • Well, shoot, Stephanie!! I’ve got 23 books (I think) on my backlist, so heck, yeah, you need to read at least one of them!

        22 books this year alone. Yowza!

    • I hope you get one someday, Stephanie. Yes, they’re a bit pricey, but they are a pressure cooker, a slow-cooker, a yogurt-maker, a rice-cooker, a steamer . . . all rolled into one appliance!

    • Yes, that makes a difference, but you can always divide up a meal and freeze, which I’m sure you already know. You can definitely eat healthier, too.

  3. I had the same crock pot you have. Unfortunately mine dies a spectacular death. We bought a new one and mu husband ruined it. My daughter has the new instant pot. I want one now as well. I remember the old pressure cooker which you could not open right away.

    • A spectacular death, Debra? LOL – now that’s intriguing! Do tell!

      How can someone ruin a Crockpot? That sounds intriguing, too!!

      Yes, you had to be VERY careful with the old pressure cookers. I had a school mate who was severely burned on her chest and neck when she wasn’t careful with hers, and ever since, I’ve sworn them on. Until my Instant Pot, that is.

  4. Oh Pam, my daughter gave me an IP two years ago for Christmas and I am ashamed to say it is still in the box. I am very intimidated by it, thus, no use. I guess I just need to back my ears and learn to use it.

    • Melanie, you’re not alone. Lots of women admit to not even taking theirs out of the box.

      BUT I CHALLENGE YOU!! Boil water! Instructions should be in the manual, and it’s super easy. Just follow the steps and you can’t go wrong.

  5. I have an old crock pot, but haven’t used it in years. The Instapot is really interesting. I would love to have one, but the price keeps me from doing so.

    • I get it, Janine. I suspect the price will come down in time, maybe? But it really is multiple appliances in one, and therefore reasonable if you look at it that way.

      But I know what you mean. Unless you cook alot, it’s hard to justify the price.

  6. Don’t own any of these now, but did in the past. Live with my daughter and family, so no need for them.

  7. wow this is a really interesting post. I guess I never thought too much about the evolution of cook pots. But it makes a lot of sense. I don’t use these, but I love my crock pot. It is used a lot.

  8. I still love mine, too, Lori. My two daughters are going to get rid of theirs to save space for their IP, but I’m hanging on to mine. I’ve got a few recipes that I always make in my Crockpot. Besides, when we have big family get-togethers, we need multiple slow cookers.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  9. I used a pressure cooker for many years when I first was married. I did not enjoy this format but it lasted forever. I have never replaced it with a modern version but would love to.

  10. I never did own a crock pot. I would love to have the new instapot since I cook a great deal for my family and this seems to be a practical and efficient method.

  11. Since I enjoy cooking creative dishes and need a new way to make it tasty and quick this would fit the bill for me. The old pressure cooking type was too heavy duty but this new pot idea is great.

  12. I have a 6 quart Cuisnart slow cooker. I highly recommend the Reynolds slow cookers for it. very little cleanup

  13. Pam, I’ve looked at the insta-pots in the store but wasn’t sure they’d be good for just one-person meals. I’ve used pressure cookers all my life but they do scare me. I’ve ended up with food on the ceiling more than once. They weren’t all that safe but I loved how quick they cooked things. I also have a Rival crock pot and love that thing.

    I’ve got to get your new book! I loved Eleanor and put a review up on Amazon. You’ve had a flurry of releases, lady! Happy dancing! 🙂

    • Food on the ceiling, Linda? Yikes! But I believe it. The older pressure cookers were indeed scary and capable of blowing food to the ceiling!

      I appreciate you reading ELEANORA and so glad you liked it!

  14. My mom and grandma used pressure cookers, those old ones with the jiggler and a lot of steam which always seemed like it would blow up. And meals which were flavorless and mushy.

    I received a peach floral Rival Crock Pot for my bridal shower. It still works, but I upgraded to a larger one a few years ago because I have boys.

    I was given an Instant Pot and I love it!

  15. Hey, Pam! I bought my mom her first Rival CrocPot for Christmas in 1972. Got it at a drugstore that was next door to the bakery where I worked. I received my first one as a wedding gift in 1978. I used it a lot! I was so glad when they finally came out with with the removable crocks though. I have 2 of those now a 4 at that I use mostly for soup and big batch cooking and a 2 at that I use for other things as I now live alone. I haven’t gotten into the Instant Pot craze for that reason, it seemed like a big expense for just me. Both my daughter and daughter-in-law have on thought and love it!

    • So you were in on the Rival craze in the 1970s, too, Debbie! Funny! And you’re right about the removable crocks. My orange one (the one I got for my wedding) isn’t removable and definitely a bit annoying to wash.

  16. I still have my 4 1st pressure cooker, Rival slow cooker and would love to have an InstaPot to add to my kitchen tools. Slow cookers are a working Mom’s salvation.

  17. I have a Presto fryer-cooker that has a thermostat control so it can be used as a fryer or slow cooker. Love it! It’s also great for blanching vegetables to be frozen and preparing tomatoes and peaches for peeling. I also have a pressure cooker I used to use but prefer the flavor of slow cooked foods.

    • Oh, interesting. I guess I wasn’t aware there was a fryer and a slow-cooker in one appliance.

      I’ve noticed with my Instant Pot that the flavor is actually better because the flavor isn’t released at all during the cooking process. With a slow cooker, we tend to life the lid and stir, releasing those flavors.

      That’s why I love the pasta, sausage and spinach recipe I put in the blog. The Italian flavors are positively INFUSED into the pasta!

  18. I have had a crockpot but it was not a Rival. Yes I have anInstant pot but have not done anything but cook meat in it. I want to try some recipes so thank you for sharing yours.

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