Jazzy InstantPot Wild Rice Pilaf

I got myself an InstantPot (deeply discounted during Amazon Prime days in August), and I’ve been experimenting with it. I’ve added wild rice and legumes back into my diet after eating Paleo (grain- and legume-free) for years, because my body functions better with the extra fiber. My doctor says they act as prebiotics, feeding healthy gut microbes. I feel good!

I’m loving wild rice! It’s got a nutty taste, a pleasing chewy texture, and is a native American food full of fiber.

I’m also loving InstantPot cooking. Even people who “can’t cook” can just follow the many recipes now available and come out with good food in not much time.

I’m a jazzy cook — I like to improvise from a master recipe, which this is. A pilaf is perfect for that: it’s a traditional Middle Eastern/Indian rice dish cooked in a broth, to which you add whatever you’ve got on hand that “goes with”.

fullsizeoutput_480I use the InstantPot’s Sauté function to soften a chopped onion (and/or shallots) and a couple of stalks of celery in olive oil or butter or ghee. You can add chopped garlic if you like, right before adding a cup of wild rice — garlic scorches easily. Mix well, sauté for another minute, and add 3 cups of mushroom, vegetable, or chicken broth.

I switch to Pressure Cook (high) and set the timer for 15 minutes, with the vent closed. When the timer goes off, I let it sit for 10 minutes and open the vent.

Then I stir the additions in while it’s hot! I like to add 1 cup of cubed cooked chicken, 1/2 cup pecan pieces, 1/2 cup dried cranberries, 1-2 cups roughly chopped baby spinach, 1 cup thinly sliced baby Portobella mushrooms, and 2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley.

Mix well. The mushrooms and spinach should wilt from the hot wild rice. If not, put the lid back on the InstantPot and set it to Keep Warm.

Here’s the creative part:

  • Instead of chicken, add turkey or duck.
  • Instead of pecans, try walnuts or almond slivers or pistachios.
  • Instead of cranberries, add raisins — or sprinkle fresh pomegranate seeds just before serving for their gorgeous color, texture, and flavor.
  • Substitute chopped kale or chard (minus thick stems) or another mild green for the spinach.
  • Add any herbs you like. Sage, thyme, and rosemary would definitely work, in my opinion.
  • Adding green onions at the end adds flavor and color and texture.
  • To balance the sweet savoriness of the pilaf with cranberries, add a bit of a good tasty vinegar, lemon juice, or dry wine (not cooking wine, usually too salty). Add by the teaspoon and taste often to avoid adding too much.

Mix well. The mushrooms and spinach should wilt from the hot wild rice. If not, put the lid back on the InstantPot and set it to Keep Warm.

If there’s extra liquid, you can pour it off, add a tablespoon of chia seeds to thicken, or leave it soupy. To make it creamy, add cream cheese or sour cream to taste and stir well to melt and blend.

Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

I invite you to see what you have on hand, sense if it would fit well with the other ingredients, and experiment! Share in the comments what worked for you!

Morning green drink nourishes, improves health and energy, staves off hunger pangs

These days I’m doing Functional Movement System training 5 days a week and doing 15-20 hours of massage per week. Just had my 62nd birthday, and I’m feeling pretty darn good! Illness, including even seasonal allergies, seems to be avoiding me.

To keep my energy levels high and to feel great, I’m making a green drink each morning. Here’s what I put in it*:

  • IMG_4171A small handful of berries. I used blueberries today. They contribute to brain health.
  • Another fruit or combination, like apple, banana, or pineapple. I find green drinks most palatable when just mildly sweet. Avocado is good, too.
  • Greens. I add a big handful of power greens (chard, kale, mizuna, and arugula), enough to cover a dinner plate well. They add vitamins and minerals and fiber and other healthy benefits.
  • A chunk of ginger root the size of the end of my thumb, for digestive health.
  • Same size chunk of turmeric root, an anti-inflammatory.
  • A bit of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar, up to a tablespoon, for alkalinity, nutrients, and to keep candida levels down (if I haven’t already drunk it in a glass of water).
  • 3 tablespoons of coconut oil for energy.
  • A half scoop of whey powder for protein. (I use a half scoop because I am small.)
  • 12-14 ounces of filtered water.

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Pineapple coconut mango smoothie

I happened to have a ripe pineapple on hand this morning. I love pineapples, especially this time of year. The crazy spiky topknot, the lizard-like skin, the pale yellow color of the flesh, the delicious sweetness of the juice — and pineapple juice is beneficial for Type Os, my blood type.

Combine a pineapple, a blender, imagination, and a few other ingredients, and it’s creation time!

I cut the top, bottom, and sides off the pineapple, sliced it, removed the core, and put about half in the blender, saving the rest for another day.

I covered the chunks with Zico Natural Pure Premium Coconut Water and ran the blender. What a beautiful color! Note: If you like more intense pineapple flavor, use less coconut water — or add pineapple juice!

I had some Brazil Gourmet Premium Mango Nectar in the fridge. It informed me it would like to join the pineapple and coconut water in the blender, so I added about 3/4ths of a cup and started a tropical party!

Then I added a teaspoon of The Ginger People Naturally Pressed Organic Ginger Juice. It wasn’t enough. Need about a tablespoon to taste it. This stuff is good to have on hand when you don’t have fresh ginger or are too lazy to peel it. Click here to read about ginger’s health benefits.

Next I added a couple of tablespoons of Artisana 100% Organic Raw Coconut Butter. Wendy of  Open Heart Foods first told me about coconut butter. It’s made from the meat (i.e., fiber) of the coconut and contains about 60% coconut oil and no other ingredients. It congeals at room temperature or colder, so refrigeration is not recommended. You can stick the jar in a pan of hot water to soften it up. It’s also great as a spread, thus “butter”.

(By the way, Wendy makes raw chocolate treats and raw flax crackers, all delicious. She is starting to sell her handmade-with-love-and-raw-ingredients foods locally. Look for them at Juiceland or Daily Juice, or maybe both! I forget which.)

Of course, I added some flaxseed oil, and some but not all of the usual superfood smoothie suspects: chia seeds, hemp seeds, and maca powder.

This filled my blender nearly to the top and produced about 4 delicious servings.

For some reason, I held back on adding cacao. I feel a little skeptical about chocolate and pineapple together. Maybe next time.

I also want to experiment with adding greens like chard, spinach, or kale to a pineapple smoothie.

Raspberry chocolate super-smoothie bliss

I’ve made this smoothie twice now, and it’s definitely worth sharing. Raspberries and chocolate complement each other very, very well, and this smooth is loaded with nutrients from superfoods, keeping you hydrated and giving you energy.

I added measurements this time! Last time I just threw things together in the blender. Except for the first two packaged ingredients, these are not exact, just indicators. Use your own judgment.

  • 1 14-oz bottle Zico coconut water
  • 1 6-oz container of organic raspberries
  • 2 T dried goji berries
  • 1 T Cortas pomegranate molasses
  • 2 T Artisana organic coconut butter
  • 2 T organic raw cacao nibs
  • 1 T cacao powder
  • 1 T maca powder
  • 2 T chia seeds
  • 1 T ground flax seed meal
  • 1 T flax seed oil
  • peeled ginger root equal to about 1 T

I put everything in the blender and let it run on a high setting for a couple of minutes to pulverize the cacao nibs. It makes about 3 servings.

Coconut butter is a fairly new product on the shelves of health-oriented grocery stores. It uses both the coconut flesh and the oil, so you get fiber from the coconut, and not just the oil. You could even make it yourself. You can use it as a spread (like butter!). Apparently it makes a great match with maca powder.

That’s an area of food research where I’d love to see more work done — what food combinations boost each other. I’ve read that green tea and lemon work really well together too.

The chia seeds soak up liquid and expand, so the smoothie will gel after blending to a nice thick texture, very filling. Chia seeds are another recently “discovered” superfood from Mexico. They boost energy and keep you hydrated through the fluid they absorb. Long-distance runners often use them. They also provide calcium, boost brain functioning, contain anti-oxidants and omega-3s, lower bad cholesterol and raise the good, control high blood pressure, and do many other good things for the human biological machine.

Maca powder is made from a South American root with these properties:

Maca is a nutritionally dense super-food that contains high amounts of minerals, vitamins, enzymes and all of the essential amino acids. Maca root is rich in B-vitamins, which are the energy vitamins, and maca is a vegetarian source of B-12. To boot, maca has high levels of bioavailable calcium and magnesium and is great for remineralization.

Maca root helps balance our hormones and due to an over abundance of environmental estrogens, most people’s hormones are a bit out of whack. Maca stimulates and nourishes the hypothalamus and pituitary glands which are the “master glands” of the body. These glands actually regulate the other glands, so when in balance they can bring balance to the adrenal, thyroid, pancreas, ovarian and testicular glands.

Instead of providing hormones to the body, maca works as an adaptogen which means that it responds to different bodies’ needs individually. If you’re producing too much of a particular hormone, maca will regulate the production downward. However, if you’re producing too little, it’ll regulate the production upward.

You can google each of these ingredients to learn the health benefits, but this smoothie feels and tastes like an explosion of well-being from your tastebuds down to the cellular and energetic levels.

You could use frozen organic raspberries or any other kind of berry, but please do not use non-organic berries as their skins are thin, and pesticides are easily absorbed into the flesh. (That may not be scientific, but it makes sense to me.)

No particular reason for using both flax seed meal and flax seed oil except that I had both on hand!

Strawberry, pomegranate, and cacao breakfast smoothie

Inspired by Patrice’s mango-cacao drink that she gave me a taste of on Friday (very yummy), today I made myself a fruit smoothie for breakfast.

I usually make green smoothies without fruit, so this is a special treat. I’ve felt in need of some self-nurturing. A bout of self-acceptance arose in the last couple of days that was a bit hard on my ego. Yesterday I had a sore throat, which seems to happen when “I” feel “under attack”. Unusual for me, I took a nap to give my immune system more resources and let my unconscious mind/inner healer do some amazing work. Today I’m better but still feeling the need to pull inward.

I happened to have a container of organic strawberries. I picked out the darkest, softest ones (more than half), pulled the stems off, washed them well, and added them to a can of 100% coconut water in my blender.

Strawberries are one of those produce items that are good to always buy organic. Every year, they are near the top of the Environmental Working Group’s list of the Dirty Dozen fruits and veggies.

(You can now download EWG’s Dirty Dozen app for your smart phone or iPad here. It’s free. No more wondering if it’s safe to buy nonorganic when you’re at the grocery or farmer’s market! I buy organic produce when it’s available. If organic is not available, I buy nonorganic if it’s on EWG’s Clean 15 list of produce. If not, I find something else that’s safe to eat.)

Also, more soapbox coming. Just because it’s sold at a farmer’s market doesn’t mean it’s organic. The majority of sellers that I’ve seen in the Austin area farmer’s markets are not organic-certified growers. Seek out organic growers and buy from them. You’ll encourage the rest to switch over.

Better yet, grow some of your own produce yourself. If you haven’t gardened before, it’s easy to start with herbs in pots. Next, try mixing in some greens like chard, kale, and collards into a nontoxic flower bed. Square foot gardening takes more effort to get started, but it’s really a fun way to garden and very low maintenance after your first planting.

Note: This applies to American readers. I presume that international readers have something like organic certification for growers. Not sure whether the EWG lists apply outside the U.S.???

Okay, soapbox off.

To the coconut water and strawberries, I added about 3 tablespoons of organic raw cacao nibs.

Then I put in a tablespoon or two of flax-seed meal, shelled hemp seeds, chia seeds, and maca powder.

Can’t forget a thumb-size chunk of peeled ginger. This is not an exact science here, more experimenting in the kitchen, which is much, much more fun once you learn basic principles than following a recipe exactly. But following recipes is how you learn.

Then I added about 3 tablespoons of pomegranate molasses. In Austin, you can get it at Fiesta and Phoenicia Bakery, stores that carry Middle Eastern brands. I use the Cortas brand, a product of Lebanon containing only natural pomegranate juice concentrate.

After adding all these ingredients, I ran my blender for a couple of minutes on the highest setting to really pulverize the cacao. When I can afford a VitaMix ($450-650 new), I’ll get one and wonder, I’m sure, how I ever managed to live without it. A VitaMix will pulverize the cacao quickly.

It was so delicious, it was hard not to drink it all in one sitting, but I managed to save some for tomorrow morning. Strawberries, cacao, and pomegranate make a great menage a trois!