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!

My version of bulletproof tea, an excellent morning drink

You may have heard of Bulletproof Coffee. It even has its own listing on Wikipedia: Bulletproof Coffee! It’s a brand created by the man who blogs at Bulletproof Exec, who adds a proprietary “brain octane” medium-chain triglyceride oil to it.

The term is also used generically to refer to high-quality coffee blended with high-quality butter or ghee. The inspiration is butter tea, a traditional energy-giving drink in the Himalayan region that uses black tea, yak butter, hot water, and salt (using those pink Himalayan salt crystals, methinks).

I realized a few years ago that – after drinking coffee for my whole adult life – that I didn’t even enjoy the taste, always doctoring it with cream and sugar (waaaaay back before I went dairy- and sugar-free). I started drinking it for the stimulation of the caffeine when I was a young college student, and it became a habit.

Even freshly ground, organic coffee beans just didn’t and still don’t taste good to me. Too acidic and too much caffeine. Smells good, though.

Then I discovered green tea. I enjoy the taste, the lower level of caffeine, the health benefits, and the way my stomach feels. So it was natural to experiment and come up with my own version of “bulletproof tea”.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 10.43.04 AMEquipment:
Have a mug with lid and a built-in infuser ready (or mug plus strainer, whatever you’ve got).

Ingredients:
green tea
pu-erh tea
yerba maté
coconut oil or grass-fed ghee
very hot water
lemon juice
stevia to taste (optional)
salt to taste (optional) Continue reading

Ruth Reichl on how to make better lemonade

How to Make Better Lemonade.

lemonade

Ruth Reichl is the food goddess. I worship her. Here she divulges the secrets of making great lemonade, including using the zest of the lemon and making simple syrup. Also there’s this:

Lemonade takes a lot of juice, so you don’t want to waste a drop. A good juicy lemon will give you a quarter cup of liquid. But they are not all so succulent, and if you have unfortunate lemons you might need to squeeze as many as six to get a cup of juice.  Increase your odds by rolling the lemons around on the counter beneath your palm. This will break down the cells inside the fruit and give you more juice. If your lemons seem hard and unforgiving, microwave them for 20 seconds.  This will shock them into relaxing, just a little.

Energizing morning beverage: green tea, yerba mate, lemon juice, ginger

Lately in the mornings, I’ve been making myself a cup of tea that has been incredibly energizing. I feel like I have the energy of someone half my age, which would be…under 30. This morning I was literally jumping at ecstatic dance!

Here’s how to make it:

Boil some filtered water and turn off the heat.

Into a tea ball or strainer, add about a teaspoon of loose green tea leaves. You could use a tea bag of green tea if that’s all you have, but be warned: the tea that goes into tea bags is of vastly inferior quality compared to loose tea.

Add anywhere from a pinch to a quarter teaspoon of yerba mate. Too much can give heart palpitations, so more is not better. Start with a pinch and add more if you have no unpleasant side effects.

Put the tea ball into a cup and fill the cup with hot water.

Add about a teaspoon of fresh squeezed lemon juice or other citrus juice.

Add 1 or 2 slices of fresh ginger root, about as thick as a nickel.

Let steep for about 3 minutes. Remove tea ball.

You could add stevia or honey if you like, but I find the astringent taste refreshing. You can also pour it over ice for a refreshing cool beverage.

Health benefits

  • Green tea is a powerhouse for health. It contains catechins, which are antioxidants that scavenge the body for free radicals and destroy them.  The catechins also protect the skin from DNA damage from UV light. Green tea’s EGCG kills cells showing abnormal growth rates — like cancer cells. It lowers the absorption rate of cholesterol from food and increases the rate cholesterol is excreted, so it improves cardiovascular health. Its theanine boosts the activity of T cells, enhancing the immune system. It assists in weight loss by stimulating the metabolism while dissolving triglycerides.
  • Adding lemon juice to green tea boosts the amount of catechins that are absorbed, supercharging it. Green tea alone is already pretty supercharged, so this combo is super-supercharged! By itself, lemon juice has dozens of beneficial properties: it is alkalizing, improves digestion and elimination, cuts phlegm, purifies the blood, improves the skin, lowers blood pressure, aids in weight loss, and more.
  • Yerba mate provides provides energy without the negative side effects of caffeine. Its theobromine (also found in cacao) relaxes the blood vessels, lowering blood pressure. It stimulates the immune system. It also promotes weight loss by decreasing hunger pangs and stimulating the metabolism.
  • Ginger induces the death of cancer cells. It improves digestion, relieves gastro-intestinal distress, is anti-inflammatory and pain relieving. Like the other ingredients, it is stimulating and energizing.

It’s amazing to me that with just a morning cup of lemon ginger green tea mate, I can do so much for my health while I increase my energy for the day.