Living the WELL Life

Autumn Feasting

Friday, November 27, 2009

Autumn seems to be synonymous with reflection.  As the days shorten and the air cools, we turn our attention indoors…and inward.  Without bright, shining days, sunshine and outdoor activities to distract us, we find the time to pause and ponder.

            I am well aware that this website is about healthy living, with whole, natural cooking as the foundation of the vitality we create day to day.  But to live as a whole, natural human, we have to think outside the perimeter of our dinner plates.  We have to consider the whole of our lives.

            We live in interesting times and only those up for the challenge will make the changes we need to survive the current climate of divisiveness that threatens to break the threads of our society.  Our differences must be set aside so we can come together to create the lives we want to live.

            What has food got to do with community, politics and the health of our lifestyle?  Just about everything, really.  The food we choose to eat creates the people that we are…our character, our emotions, our ability to manage stress…all founded in how our bodies are fed.

            Think about it and you will realize that I am not so off the mark here.  When we eat food not designed by nature to nourish humans…fast food, soda, processed food, junk food, white sugar, candy…we begin a downward spiral, first physically…we lose our vitality, gain weight, grow lethargic and sluggish.  And that’s just the beginning of the decline.  As we continue to feed ourselves with food not fit for human consumption, we continue to degenerate, with our organs struggling to do their jobs and various diseases developing as a result. 

And this has what, you are wondering, to do with creating community?  Everything.  When we feel lousy, lethargic, fat, tired or sick, do we feel like running around like Superman, making the world a better place?  Or would we rather sit on the sofa, staring at the t.v., growing more and more mind-numbed to the horrific images dancing on the screen?  As we fail physically, we grow depressed, hopeless and sad.  And the downward spiral continues until we are as spiritually bankrupt as we are physically overdrawn.

            On the other hand, when we eat foods designed by nature to nourish us as humans, we feel enlivened, vital, hearty and ready to take on the world…and all its troubles.  Without the characteristic aches and pains, chronic illnesses and other plagues of modern human life, our bodies stay strong…giving us the energy, optimism and impetus to take care of ourselves, our families and friends and our communities.

            Whole natural foods give us an appreciation of the planet that yields the foods we eat, an intolerance for injustice, compassion for others, courage to make change and open our hearts and minds so that we can peacefully co-exist with each other in all our splendid differences.

            You may think I am crazy…or over-simplifying the reality of the world we live in.  But look around…and see what you see.  You will see need everywhere…but especially now during these trying times.  Do what you can to help your fellow humans…we are in this together.  This will not go away quickly…it may fade from the headlines, but there are months and months of recovery ahead of us. We need to be healthy and vital, as people and a society to rise to the challenges we face together.  And it begins in the kitchen…with our cooking. 

            Cook well…strengthen yourself…let these recipes be the beginning for you. 

Broccoli responsible for making the world a better place?  Maybe not so far-fetched after all…   


Vegetable Stock

Making vegetable stock in a pressure cooker creates a ‘double whammy’ of nutrition.  Pressure cooking seals in flavor and nutrients, losing nothing to steam.  And, pressure cooking, since it cooks at a higher temperature than boiling, cooks food thoroughly for best assimilation of nutrients.  Remember this, though…make your stock from only the freshest vegetables to ensure great taste and optimal nutrition.  And did I mention that pressure cooking stock cuts the cooking time in half?


Extra virgin olive oil

1 small yellow onion, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 carrot, diced

4 cups spring or filtered water

1 bouquet garni (2 sprigs parsley, 1 sprig thyme, 1 bay leaf)

Sea salt


Place a small amount of oil in a 2-quart pressure cooker over medium heat.  Sauté onion for 1 minute.  Stir in celery and sauté for 1 minute.  Stir in carrot and sauté for 1 minute.  Add water and bring to a boil, uncovered…do not add salt. 

            While the stock comes to a boil, make the bouquet garni.  Place the ingredients in a small piece of cheesecloth and tie it into a small bundle.  Add it to the boiling stock, seal the pressure cooker lid and bring to full pressure.  Reduce heat to low and cook for 30 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow pressure to reduce naturally.  Remove cover and place stock over medium heat.  Add salt to taste and simmer for 5 minutes.  Strain all ingredients out of broth.

            Stock will keep, refrigerated, for about a week and you can also freeze it in portions for use in many recipes.  Makes about 4 cups of stock.



This splendid rice stew is a traditional Asian dish designed to create vitality.  The ingredients come together to cleanse the blood of accumulated fat and protein that make for sluggish organ function.  And while some of the ingredients may seem a little exotic to you…a trip to the natural food store will solve that dilemma…and is worth the effort.  You’ll be strong and vital as the cold weather of winter moves in


1-inch piece kombu or 1 bay leaf

1 cup short grain brown rice, rinsed well

½ (one half) yellow onion, finely diced

1 small carrot, finely diced

2 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked until tender, finely diced

2-3 slices dried lotus root, soaked until tender, finely diced (or fresh, in season)

1/4 cup dried shredded daikon, soaked until tender, finely diced

soy sauce

2 cups spring or filtered water

1 teaspoon fresh ginger juice

1-2 fresh scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal, for garnish

Place kombu or bay leaf on the bottom of a pressure cooker.  Top with rice and layer the vegetables over the rice in the order listed.  Season lightly with soy sauce and gently add water, taking care not to disturb layering too much.  Seal the lid and bring to full pressure over medium heat.  Place the pot on a flame deflector, reduce heat to low and cook for 50 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow pressure to reduce naturally.  Open the pot, stir ginger juice gently into ingredients to combine and transfer to a serving bowl.  Serve garnished with scallions.  Makes 3-4 servings.


Mediterranean Bean Salad

I think that there is nothing healthier than the Mediterranean approach to eating.  Moderate, varied and rich in taste and texture, these wholesome eating patterns have a lesson for all of us.  With its roots solidly in the use of vegetables, with meat and dairy as side dishes, when used at all, these traditions offer us a healthful and delicious style of eating that can last a lifetime. And when it comes to pressure cooking, it goes with beans like love and marriage.  The high pressure of cooking serves to shorten cooking time, but more important, tenderizes the beans making them more digestible.


1-inch piece kombu or 1 bay leaf

1 cup chickpeas, rinsed well

3 cups spring or filtered water

1 small head curly endive or bitter lettuce

2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 clove fresh garlic, thinly sliced

1 small red onion, thin half moons

sea salt

grated zest of 1 lemon

5-6 button mushrooms, brushed free of dirt, thinly sliced

1 carrot, thin match stick pieces

½ (one half) cup thin matchstick pieces daikon (optional)

2 teaspoons mirin or white wine

1 small cucumber, thin half moon slices

2-3 red radishes, thinly sliced

2-3 sprigs flatleaf parsley, finely minced

2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

juice of 1 lemon


Place kombu or bay leaf on the bottom of a pressure cooker with beans on top.  Add water and bring to a boil, over medium heat, uncovered.  Boil for 5 minutes.  Seal lid and bring to full pressure.  Reduce heat to low and cook for 40 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow pressure to reduce naturally.  Drain beans and set aside.

Clean endive very well.  Slice finely and arrange on a platter.  Chill thoroughly.

Place oil and garlic in a skillet and turn heat to medium.  Cook garlic slices until golden, strain from the oil and discard.  (This will give your dish the essence of garlic flavor without the strong energy associated with it).  Saute onions, with a pinch of salt, until limp, about 2 minutes.  Stir in lemon zest and mushrooms, a pinch of salt and saute until the mushrooms begin to release their juices into the pan.  Stir in carrot, daikon and mirin.  Season to taste with salt, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until carrots are tender, about 7 minutes.  Stir in cooked chickpeas and cook, uncovered, until any remaining liquid has been absorbed into the dish.  Remove from heat and mix in cucumbers, radishes, parsley, vinegar and lemon juice.  Stir gently to combine. Spoon chickpea mixture onto chilled greens and serve immediately.  Makes 4-5 servings.


Honey-Glazed Winter Squash

One of the greatest pleasure of cooler weather, besides being curled up next to a warm fire with your sweetie, is winter squash.  And pressure-cooked, it is as sweet as any dessert…


Extra virgin olive oil

1 red onion, quartered

3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled, left whole

1 buttercup squash, quartered and seeded, do not peel

Sea salt

White wine

¼ (one quarter) cup honey

Juice of one half fresh lemon


Place about 3 tablespoons oil, onion and garlic in a pressure cooker and place over medium heat.  Sauté for 2 minutes.  Spread onions and garlic over the bottom of the pressure cooker and lay squash quarters on top.  Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and drizzle generously with wine.  Seal the lid and raise heat to high.  Bring to full pressure and reduce heat to low.  Cook under pressure for 30 minutes.  Turn off heat and allow pressure to reduce naturally.  Remove cover and transfer vegetables to a serving platter. 

            Place honey and lemon juice in a small pan and cook over very low heat for 1 minute.  Spoon over squash and serve.  Makes 4-6 servings.  


Chocolate Ginger Cake

How can we enjoy this food of the gods and not pay a price?  Choose a good quality, unsweetened, organic (when possible) chocolate and make the recipes you enjoy with the finest ingredients you can find.  And cooked this way, pressure cooked to soft, moist perfection, this is chocolate cake to die for…and with no guilt!


2 ½ (one half) cups whole wheat pastry flour

One half cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 (one quarter) teaspoon sea salt

3 teaspoons baking powder

One half cup unsweetened, shredded coconut

3 teaspoons powdered ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

One half cup light olive oil

One half cup brown rice syrup

1 teaspoon brown rice vinegar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1-2 cups unsweetened almond milk


Chocolate glaze

1/4 (one quarter) cup unsweetened almond milk

3 tablespoons brown rice syrup

1 cup grain-sweetened, non-dairy chocolate chips


Lightly oil a standard pudding basin, including the lid.  Instead of flour, dust the pan with cocoa powder, so that the cake has no white deposits on it.

Combine flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, coconut and spices.  Whisk briskly.  Mix in oil, sweetener, vinegar and vanilla.  Slowly add milk to create a smooth, spoonable batter.  Spoon evenly into the prepared pudding basin and cover tightly.  Place in a pressure cooker.  Fill the pressure cooker with water to half cover the pudding basin and bring to a boil.  Seal the lid of the pressure cooker and bring to full pressure.  Reduce heat to low and cook for 1 hour.  Remove from heat and allow pressure to reduce naturally.  Carefully remove pudding basin from pressure cooker and allow to stand, undisturbed, for 10 minutes before removing lid and inverting pudding onto a plate.  Allow to cool completely.

To make the glaze, simply combine milk and sweetener in a sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Turn off heat and stir in chocolate chips, stirring until smooth and satin-like.  Immediately spoon a thin glaze over cake, allowing it to run down the sides.  Allow to set for a minute or so and repeat with another layer of glaze, continuing until the cake is glazed as you like.  Makes 8-10 servings.




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