Friday, October 24, 2014

Pumpkin and Sweet Potato Stew with Greens and Undertone of Pear, served with Madagascar Pink Rice with Broccoli (No Added Fat)

As I described earlier this week, I've been thinking of cooking with pears in the pressure cooker. I had some leftover pumpkin from that earlier meal, and used it for tonight's dinner.

  • 2 cups pumpkin (ours was organic, so we left the skin on), cut into 3/4" cubes
  • 1 cup onion (approximately half of a medium onion) cut into 1/4" x 1" half moons
  • I had wanted to use a packed cup of kale leaves (stems removed) chopped into maybe 1/2" squares, but only had 3 leaves - I used the 3 leaves but also used a cup of spinach
  • Medium sweet potato cut into 1/4" cubes (1 cup)
  • 1 medium pear (a firm and ideally not yet quite ripe one - I used an anjou, but a bosc would have worked well, too) cut into 1/4" cubes (approx. 1 cup)
  • Vegan bouillon cube
  • 1/3 cup water
  • Approx. 1/4 t salt
  • Approx. 1/4 t dried oregano


I put all of the ingredients into my Instant Pot. I have never used the timer feature and actually put the ingredients in a few hours before dinner, and had it start after two hours (timing is not so critical as the unit goes into a keep-warm mode once done) and then run for 3 minutes under high pressure. Then I served - simple! I also made a Madagascar Pink rice dish with onion and small pieces of broccoli.


Wow, the main course was excellent! It's amazing what three minutes of pressure cooking can do. This was one of my favorite meals in the recent past. We all enjoyed it. The pear worked better than I dared hope - if a cube was eaten by itself, one may recognize it as a pear. But in the dish, it really contributed some subtle undertones and a bit of moistness. My hunch to try pear was a good one. The broccoli went great with the rice, as well.

Ideas for the future

I'd like to explore more dishes with pear as a side note - and, for that matter, other fruits, like perhaps Asian pear, banana, or kiwi. Tonight's meal was a winner!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Simple Pressure Cooked Brown Rice and Tofu (No Added Fat)

I teach photography many Thursday nights and usually stop to eat out on the way home. Tonight, I had a desire for a tofu dish; since my wife, who doesn't eat tofu (she can't digest it well) and the rest of the family had eaten, I decided to try a simple tofu and rice dish in the Instant Pot pressure cooker and use this opportunity to try cooking rice under pressure; I picked up some medium grained brown rice.

Back in July, I enjoyed my experiment with 3-minute pressure cooked tofu. But I wanted a simple dish with one cooking time. I knew that the ingredients other than the rice may be overcooked, but I decided to add all the ingredients and cook together.

I found different approaches to cooking brown rice in the Instant Pot:
  • The company's website suggests a rice to water ratio of 1 : 1.25, and a high pressure cook time of 22-28 minutes
  • A site called Simply Daily Recipes describes cooking with the same ratio for 22 minutes, letting it stay for another 10 minutes in the default "keep warm" mode, then releasing the remaining pressure slowly and serving.
  • The pressure cooker itself has a multigrain button. By default, it cooks in 40 minutes - but that's not much savings over 45m being cooked conventionally on the stove, though I did read on the company's site that pressure cooked rice tastes better. With the multigrain button, the adjust button could be used:
    • Less cooks in 20m - but would this cook fully?
    • More soaks the grains for 45m then pressure cooks for 60m, and is recommended "for harder grains such as dry split corn" (I'm not familiar with dry split corn.) It's neat that grains can automatically be soaked!
I decided to try the second approach, but am intrigued about the 20m third approach, and will have to try it sometime.

  • 3/4 cup brown rice
  • 3/4 x 1.25 (i.e., about a cup) cup water
  • 1 vegan bouillon cube
  • 1 1/2 cups of large 3/4" cubes of tofu (it ended up being about 10 ounces from a 16 ounce packet of tofu with herbs)
  • 3 cloves garlic roughly cut into 1/4" or so cubes
  • 1/2 medium onion cut into 3/8" x 1" cubes (approximately 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup bell pepper cut into 1/4"x1/2" cubes (approximately 1/2 of a medium pepper)
  • Approximately 1/2 t salt

  1. I put all of the ingredients into the Instant Pot pressure cooker, stirred, and cooked on high pressure for 22 minutes.
  2. I let the pot stay in its keep-warm mode for 10 minutes, then slowly let out the remaining pressure. (I actually got busy doing something else and let it go for about 14m.)


Dinner was good! The rice was cooked nicely to a welcome fluffiness, and there was no sticking to the instant pot surface, for easy cleanup. Surprisingly, the tofu and vegetables didn't seem to suffer by the extra cooking, though I'd prefer the pepper less soft. I was also surprised that the rice, while quite nice, had a few kernels that were a bit undercooked and crunchy. I hesitate to add much more cooking time without more liquid as the liquid was just fully absorbed without any rice sticking to the pot.

The tradeoff of being able to cook everything at one time is well worth the soft peppers, in my mind. I don't understand why the tofu didn't really degrade with longer cooking.

Ideas for the future

Next time, I think I'll try one or two more minutes of cook time. I was thinking of adding jalapeno, but am sending some with my daughter's lunch tomorrow, so kept the dish from being spicy. I did add some hot sauce at the table. I should explore making similar dishes in the future with a bit more flavor, such as with Brussels sprouts or other vegetables, and with some turmeric, perhaps.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Autmun Pumpkin and Cranberry Beans (No Added Fat)

I was delighted to have my Kindergartener daughter help in designing tonight's dinner. I had the idea of an autumn meal, blending some sweetness of pears into a savory dish, using my pressure cooker. I love winter squash, but my daughter doesn't. Pumpkin is similar but I rarely cook with it - and I was hoping that the excitement of the seasonal Halloween vegetable might excite my daughter to enjoy it.

I was going to pressure cook pear, pumpkin, and onion (and garlic if my Dad weren't visiting) for 3 minutes, then mix in seitan. She liked the idea, but suggested cranberry beans instead of seitan, and wanted kale. I ended up not using pears, but want to try pressure cooking pears with perhaps pumpkin or some other vegetable sometime soon. Here is what I did.

  • 3/4 cup cranberry beans
  • Water to just cover beans in the pressure cooker
  • Vegan bouillon cube
  • 1/2 small or medium edible pumpkin (I used an organic pie pumpkin; some Halloween decorative pumpkins may not be sold to be eaten by people) cut into 1" squares (approx. 3 cups)
  • 1/2 onion cut into thin half moon slivers approx. 1/4" x 3/4" (approx. 1 cup)
  • 5 large kale leaves roughly hand cut into 3/4" or 1" pieces, stems removed (approx. 1 2/3 cup compressed)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Salt to taste (I used about 1/4 t)
  • (Optional) 1/4 t ground cumin seed

  1. The Instant Pot has a convenient "bean" button that cooks beans for 30m at high pressure; my wife rinsed the beans and put them in the pot, adding just enough water to cover them, along with the bouillon cube, and used the bean button.
  2. That should have nicely cooked the beans, but my wife had ended up stacking several items in the pressure cooker, which I've never done - and the beans, even at 30m weren't done. I cooked them for another 8m.
  3. After a few minutes, I gently let out the pressure and added the pumpkin, onion, kale, and half cup of water, stirred, and cooked for 6 more minutes. I believe that all would cook in 3 minutes, but I wanted to be sure that the beans would be done as they were still a bit harder than I'd like.
  4. I waited a few minutes, then slowly let out the heat and opened the pressure cooker.
  5. I mixed in the salt and cumin, then served.


I quite liked the main course, though the pumpkin indeed was essentially pureed. The pumpkin skin was intact but softened, and was good to eat. I liked the dish; my daughter and wife ate it and liked but didn't love it. I wasn't surprised about my daughter, as she doesn't like squash. While I liked how the pumpkin made the dish, I may have to come up with different ways of preparing pumpkin to satisfy my family.

Ideas for the future

Garlic, ginger, and a bit of jalapeno would be good. I suspect that some turmeric and raw onion mixed in at the end would be beneficial.

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Cranberry Bean Soup (No Added Fat)

My daughter had vacation last week and I had planned on getting away for a few days to the mountains (my wife had to work), but we had rain forecast. I taught Thursday night and then took advantage of a small window of time to get away to the beach Friday for one night. I had to get back as today was the first annual Triangle Vegfest and I was the opening speaker.

What a great festival! I had nothing to do with organizing this - there was a very well organized person who put it together so well, with speakers like Gene Baur, Karen Davis, local slow-cooking author (what a nice blog!) Kathy Hester; outdoor activities including live bands; many vendors; food demonstrations; yoga classes; and more.

We got home with a tired kiddo; I made a quick meal for her while I prepared a bean soup. It is suddenly a bit cooler today, and I was in the mood for a hearty bean soup. Sometime soon I'd like to make a multi-bean soup, but for today I worked with cranberry beans.

I didn't have any soaked beans, so increased the cooking time from 20-25 minutes to 28 minutes. Initially, I had thought of cooking in two parts, adding vegetables like carrot and some greens for a second 3-minute high-pressure cooking, but decided to use broccoli stalks chopped fine and perhaps overcooked bell pepper strips and rely on the flavor, particularly of the stalks, to just do one cycle (of course, onion was included; if my Dad weren't visiting, I'd add garlic). Here is what I did.

  • 3/4 cup cranberry beans
  • Vegan bouillon cube
  • 3/4 medium onion cut into large 1/2" cubes (app. 1 cup)
  • Medium bell pepper cut into approx. 1/4"x3/4" strips (app. 1 cup)
  • 3T broccoli stalk chopped into fine 1/8" cubes
  • 3 cups water (I used boiling water to hasten the cooking)
  • 2 cloves garlic roughly diced into 1/8" pieces or so
  • 1/2 t dried oregano
  • 2T miso
  • 1 medium shallot chopped into 3/8" cubes - approx. 3T
  • 1/2 t (or to taste) red chili powder
  • (Optional) Hot sauce, salt, and/or freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  1. Rinse and drain the beans
  2. Put all of the ingredients (I skipped the garlic as my Dad doesn't eat garlic) except the miso, shallot, oregano, and chili powder in the Instant Pot pressure cooker and put in just enough water to cover the beans; cook on high pressure for 28m (but see Results section below - I should have cooked for 32m)
  3. Let the pressure cooker cool down a bit (putting a moist towel on top helps) and then slowly reduce pressure and remove the top
  4. Add the remaining ingredients, stir, and serve
I also made some mashed potato and served a salad.


The soup was good but the beans were still a bit firm. My wife ate it as it was, but I put the pot back in (including the additional ingredients - I should have also added a carrot sliced into maybe 3/8" thick slices) for four more minutes. At this point, my Dad and I really enjoyed the soup. It was surprisingly a bit spicy - this batch of chili powder must be quite hot. The bell pepper wasn't mushy but was plenty soft, and went well with the other ingredients.

Ideas for the future

I would go with 32 or even 33 minutes of cooking time next time, unless I soak the beans, in which case 22-24 minutes would be enough, as I've done in the past. A full cup of beans would have been welcome, and carrots cooked for 3 or 4 minutes would be nice. Barley may go well with this soup, as well as fennel (maybe 2T fennel root cut into 1/4" cubes and cooked with the beans; perhaps some fennel fronds could garnish the soup) and a bit more shallot (5T?) or raw onion at the end. This is a good soup!

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Monday, October 06, 2014

Cranberry Beans with Kale and Fennel, served with Jade Pearl Rice (No Added Fat)

I love cooking with cranberry beans.  I soaked a cup of them overnight and wanted to make a dish with fennel. On Wednesday, I had soaked some cranberry beans and was planning on pressure cooking them for 20-25 minutes as the main part of a dish the next day. However, I had a new Food for Life series beginning on Friday and was out with my daughter shopping (and then eating at the store) Thu.

The beans were patient! After being soaked overnight at room temperature, I drained the beans, covered, and stored in the refrigerator. They were fine for using today - I just rinsed once more then put in the Instant Pot pressure cooker, put enough water in to just cover the beans (keeping the volume well below the halfway point of the pot), then cooked on high for 20m. Here is what I made tonight.

  • One cup cranberry beans, soaked overnight
  • Vegan bouillon cube
  • Water (just enough to cover beans)
  • Half head of kale, stems left behind and leaves hand stripped into approx. 3/4" squares (about 1 1/2 cups packed)
  • Half cup onion, chopped into 3/8" cubes (approx. half a small onion)
  • Half cup (approx. half of a fennel bulb) fennel bulb, chopped into 1/4" cubes
  • 1/2 - 1 t (or more) of ginger root, finely diced
  • 4 small carrots, cut into 1/4" slices (the carrots were smaller than we usually have and it ended up being just under a cup; I would normally use 2 medium carrots)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Small shallot diced into 1/4" pieces (approx. 1/8 cup); an equivalent amount of onion could be used
  • Approx. 1/8 of a small onion chopped into 1/4" pieces (approx. 1/8 cup)
  • 1/4 t dried oregano
  • (Optional) Hot sauce, salt, and/or freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Few fennel fronds


  1. Rinse and drain the beans
  2. Put the beans and bouillon cube in the Instant Pot pressure cooker and put in just enough water to cover the beans; cook on high pressure for 20m
  3. Let the pressure cooker cool down a bit (putting a moist towel on top helps) and then slowly reduce pressure and remove the top; in my case, there was plenty of time so I was able to just open the pressure cooker
  4. Add the kale, first onion batch, fennel, ginger, carrot, and 1/2 cup water and turned the pressure cooker on for another 3 minutes
  5. I let the pressure come down then slowly released remaining pressure, mixed in the shallot, second batch of onion, oregano, 1/4t of salt (I used the nice finishing fleur de sel that we just picked up after being without it for over a year!), and 1/4 t black pepper.
  6. I served the bean dish with the fennel fronds as garnish.
I also made Jade pearl rice with bell pepper and onion (first sauteeing the vegetables briefly and then adding about 2/3 cup rice and 1 2/3 times, or just over a cup, of water plus a vegan bouillon cube, and simmering for 20m). I mixed in about 2T of nutritional yeast and a little salt to the rice before serving. Heirloom tomato sprinkled with hemp seed completed the meal.

I like the hearty taste and heft of cranberry beans! The main course would have benefited from some jalapeno (but my daughter then wouldn't have eaten it; my wife and I added some hot sauce at the table) and ginger (but my Dad wouldn't have eaten it then). I wanted the fennel to be subtle, and it was - a bit more could have been used. The rice was, of course, great!

Ideas for the future

I would add maybe 2 chopped cloves garlic in the first (for a mild flavor) or second (for stronger flavor) pressure cooking, and perhaps 1/4 of a jalapeno cut into 1/4" slices in the second pressure cooking. A few more vegetables could have added to the flavor, such as perhaps pumpkin, squash, or sweet potato. Maybe some capers or even a bit of diced olive added at the end could have been nice. The rice was good - the nutritional yeast was a good addition!

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Monday, September 29, 2014

Cranberry Bean - Kale Burgers, Quinoa (No Added Fat)

I loved the cranberry beans that I made in early September! Most of the places that I shop don't seem to carry these beans that cook into a filling, creamy texture, but I found them at Whole Foods Market in Durham, NC today. I had the idea of mashing the beans and then cooking them as burgers. I refined the idea to blend the beans instead of mashing them.

  • One cup cranberry beans, soaked overnight (see above for variation)
  • 1/2 t finely chopped (1/8" or so cubes) ginger
  • Water (just enough to cover beans)
  • Vegan bouillon cube
  • 1/4 cup onion cut into large 1/2" pieces and separated into two halves
  • Salt, and/or freshly ground black pepper, to taste - start with 1/2 t of each
  • (Optional) Hot sauce or jalapeno
  • 4-6 leaves kale, roughly cut into 1" squares, stems left behind
  • (Optional) 2 cloves garlic roughly diced into 1/8" pieces or so
  • (Optional but recommended) 8-10 leaves fresh basil
  • (Optional but recommended) Approximately 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1T miso
  • 1t nutritional yeast
  • 1t chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup water


  1. Rinse and drain the beans. (I didn't soak the beans overnight but soaked them about 7 hours; I used boiling water and changed the water - with a new batch of boiling water - about half way through.)
  2. Put the beans and ginger in the Instant Pot pressure cooker and put in just enough water to cover the beans; cook on high pressure for 22m. I should have added the bouillon cube but forgot; I instead added it before blending. (The ginger can be helpful to prevent gas, though my family doesn't seem to have an issue with these beans.)
  3. Let the pressure cooker cool down a bit (putting a moist towel on top helps) and then slowly reduce pressure and remove the top.
  4. Put the cooked beans, half the onion, salt and pepper, and the hot sauce or jalapeno (I omitted both as my daughter wouldn't have eaten this) into a blender (along with the bouillon cube that I missed earlier) and blend briefly to homogenize.
  5. Add the remaining onion, garlic (which I skipped, as my Dad doesn't eat garlic, but I've included in the writeup for the future), basil, and kale to the blender and blend briefly at medium (I used 70% power on my Vitamix variable setting), mixing everything in but being careful to keep recognizable small pieces of the newly added vegetables.
  6. I transferred this fairly thick paste to a bowl and, in turn, took two large tablespoonfuls into my clean hands, rolled into a ball, and flattened into a thick (3/4"?) patty.
  7. I had some prepared bread crumbs that included garlic as an ingredient. Since my Dad doesn't eat garlic, I cooked his burger as this patty. For the rest, I gently pressed both sides of the burgers into the bread crumbs first.
  8. I put the patties, with or without bread crumbs, into a cast iron skillet that had been preheated for a few minutes on medium high, but added no oil. I checked the bottom after about 3 minutes and then every minute or so until it was gently brown (I think it took about 4 or 5 minutes), then flipped and cooked the other side similarly.
  9. In parallel, I had made a miso sauce by blending the miso, nutritional yeast, additional teaspoon of onion, and water. I served the burger with the sauce on top.
I also made some quinoa by first sauteeing (with no oil) some bell pepper and onion, then cooking the quinoa in a 1 part quinoa to 2 part water combination, along with a vegan bouillon cube. I let it simmer for about 3 or 4 minutes then covered and turned the heat off; the characteristic quinoa spiral was evident with the liquid absorbed after about 10 minutes. I mixed in a little salt and ground cumin and served along with an heirloom tomato slice.


We were all amazed at the "bean dip" that came out of the pressure cooker. I was tempted to stop and not make burgers but instead saved some (and put on bread for my daughter's lunch tomorrow) as a dip. This was the first time that I've tried making burgers of any kind from scratch, and all of us liked them. My wife suggested that a little bit more binding may help, such as may be obtained by including some potato. I liked the burgers with the consistency that they were, but wouldn't mind exploring (dehydrating?) getting them more firm. But we all liked the burgers.

I realized late in the process that I should have enhanced the sauce at least with ginger and some citrus perhaps. The dressing was reasonable, but the choice of ketchup for my daughter's burger may have been a better one for us all. The quinoa, as always, was good.

Ideas for the future

I need to redo this recipe but stop once I get the "bean dip" and serve it like a hummus or perhaps in a Mexican-style layered dish. That dip is a winner - I wonder why cranberry beans aren't better known. I was pleased with how the breading for the burgers worked out and should use bread crumbs more often. I should try making burgers again. Garlic would have been a welcome addition to the burgers (and perhaps quinoa), but wasn't really necessary as the flavors were reasonably rich. The kale in the burger could be optional but I liked the green color that it contributed but, more significantly, loved the nutritional punch that the kale contributed to an already nutritious meal. It's fun and rewarding expermenting with this bean in particular!

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Fennel with Seitan, Corn and Quinoa (No Added Fat)

In my Food for Life class earlier today, one of the dishes that I prepared was a tasty orange and fennel salad. I had most of a fennel bulb left, and wanted to explore some new creations with fennel. I found a simple and appealing recipe for braised fennel and shallot, and hope to try it soon.  I was in a bit of a rush tonight as I was going to a performance, but came up with a good dish.

  • 1/3 medium onion cut into thin (approximately 1/4") half moons
  • 1 medium bell pepper, cut into 3/8" cubes
  • 2T fennel root, cut into approximately 1/4"x3/4" slices
  • 1T fennel stalk, cut into approximately 1/4" cubes
  • 8 ounces mushroom (any variety) cut into 1/4" slices
  • 4 ounces seitan, in approximately 1/2" x 1" strips
  • (Optional) Pinch of fennel fronds per serving


  1. I was initially thinking of preparing a waterless meal so chose a small Saladmaster stock pot and put the onion into it.
  2. I stirred over medium heat for a few minutes till the onion became slightly clear, then added the remaining vegetables.
  3. I stirred occasionally and cooked for another 2 or 3 minutes to let the mushroom cook down a bit, then added the seitan. (If I had really wanted to cook in the covered waterless fashion, I'd have put all the ingredients in initially. In hindsight, though this worked out well, I could have used a skillet.)
  4. I cooked, stirring occasionally, for another 4 or 5 minutes, then served, topped with a pinch of the fennel fronds.
I also prepared some mixed brown and yellow quinoa with onion and corn.


Dinner came out well. I am glad that I used the fennel and in small quantities. All three portions of the fennel tasted good but didn't overpower the dish. The corn and quinoa was a good combination.

Ideas for the future

Garlic would go well with the main course, as would a touch of hot spice.

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