"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Tag: brown rice

“macro” bowl for dinner. . .

macro bowl of brown rice, avocado, yellow squash and salmon poke

macro bowl of brown rice, avocado, yellow squash and salmon poke

Now that the holidays are over with all that rich food (I’m guilty!) I’m feeling like simplifying our food intake and making them appetizing at the same time. I studied macrobiotic cooking a long time ago when I had a viral condition for which Western medicine wasn’t helpful (they said you can’t treat viruses.) However, in Chinese traditional medicine, there’s a concept that parasites (viruses and bacteria) grow and thrive in “damp” conditions in the body. And so, if your diet is prepared to “dry out” the damp, then, there’s no place for them to hide. At least, that’s what I like about Eastern approaches to health and the body. That’s not to say that when I fractured my ankle a few years ago, that the orthopedic care I received in the Emergency Room was of the highest degree possible – the two orthopedic residents were so professional!)

Anyhow, I digress. The real reason for this post is that I’ve come across a way to prepare meals that might simplify the preparation time, but also offer us a nice way to eat healthy prepared meals without feeling deprived in any way. In fact, I think the presentation of macrobiotic foods (grains, vegetables and a little fish) in one-bowl will be fun. It also serves to customize the amount of food prepared so that there’s less chance for leftovers left in the fridge.

So tonight’s menu includes making salmon poke (pronounced “po-keh”) a Hawaiian version of sliced raw fish with soy sauce, a little wasabi and sesame seeds. The one-bowl presentation will include warm brown rice, cooked yellow squash with onions, sliced avocado and the salmon poke. The fish needs to be “sashimi-grade” for which I rely on my fishmonger’s advice. She cut a center piece and skinned it for me.

One unexpected benefit of the freshly cooked warm brown rice is that it gently heats the raw salmon without cooking it, making it even more tender and tasty.


an austere post-election Sunday dinner. . .


I’ve been making an effort to cook semi-macrobiotic food for a couple of weeks now. It isn’t always easy to put together an appetizing menu but tonight, I think it’ll be tasty although the idea of it is rather austere:

  1. kabocha nimono:  squash slices parboiled in a dashi/soy broth; then broiled in the oven with maple syrup glaze;
  2. Minnesota wild rice with mushrooms and onions
  3. carrot and hijicki nishime: sauteed carrot sticks with soaked hijicki seaweed braised together in a soy and mirin based dashi broth
  4. roasted chestnuts after dinner to eat along while watching the Patriots game against the Seahawks at 8:30 EST.

KABOCHA SQUASH RECIPE: I took a chance buying a small squash with a dark green skin and when I cut it open, the bright orange flesh inside told me it was indeed Kabocha. I scooped out the seeds and, using a very sharp knife, cut the squash into wedges. I made a dashi stock and added a tablespoon of soy sauce and simmered the squash with the cover on. It cooked through in just about 20 minutes which surprised me. I took it out and drained it on a baking sheet to hold until I brushed on a little maple syrup before running it under the broiler to brown before serving. The texture of kabocha squash tastes a lot like sweet potato too.austere-4

CARROT & HIJICKI NISHIME: It took me about ten minutes (much to my chagrin) to locate where I had put the Hijiki seaweed in the pantry that I had ordered on Amazon. It’s sometimes hard to locate at Asian markets and I had ordered two packets of it. I used half a packet for this dish. It was a little harder to cut the carrots by hand into thin matchsticks before sauteeing the carrots in a little sesame oil in a skillet. While the carrots cooked, I added the hijiki after rinsing it well under running water to remove any impurities (and having soaked it in boiling water.) Mixing the carrots and seaweed together, I added a mixture of 2 tablespoons of Ohsawa organic soy sauce and 1 tablespoon mirin, a touch of splenda for a little sweetness and some of the dashi broth that I used to poach the kabocha squash to austere-2promote the umami taste of the dish.

WILD RICE & MUSHROOMS: I like cutting up large button mushrooms into quarters and sauteeing with some chopped shallot in unsalted butter before adding a packet of wild rice and spice packet, letting it steam for about 20 minutes before dinner, removing the lid and letting all of the liquid to absorb and crisp up the rice.austere-3

I’m impressed by the umami tastes of the kabocha squash, the carrot and seaweed nishime and wild rice mushroom dish. It seemed like a rather austere menu in the abstract when I first decided to make it. But it turned out to be quite complex in flavor and very flavorful with varied textures to boot. It’s also a water-based cuisine so very refreshing to eat and savor.  Definitely a keeper!

Rather cheery outcome, especially in light of the world spinning around us!

brown rice . . .

bento box 2

Earlier this week, I retrieved my German-made pressure cooker from the recesses of my pantry.

Read (in Buddhist cookbook, “Wake Up and Cook!”) about the composer John Cage’s ritual of gathering fresh spring water out in the wilds of New York State to use when cooking his brown rice in a pressure cooker with a spoonful of soy.

That also got me thinking about making rice balls with nori and other goodies in bento boxes or one bowl meals.

These photos were found at Thanks!

These photos were found at Thanks!

zen cuisine . . .

photos from NYTimes article featuring Zen Buddhist nun Jeong Kwan and her cooking

photos from NYTimes article featuring Zen Buddhist nun Jeong Kwan and her cooking

Today is Day Three of my water fast (the 2nd day was the hardest) and I am feeling buoyed up, centered and excited about following Zen cuisine when my 4-day water fast is completed on Monday. I already have a nice library of cookery writing along these lines: “Wake Up and Cook” where John Cage writes about going out to gather spring water from the wilds of New York State to make his staple of pressure-cooked brown rice with a spoonful of soy sauce. “Food for Solitude” is another old favorite of mine with essays written by loners and ascetics who eat simply and well enough, and who know why they like living that way.

In my library of macrobiotic cooking (I took a workshop out at the Kushi Institute in western Massachusetts more than a decade ago when I was recuperating from a viral illness) I rediscovered the practice of cooking brown rice in a pressure cooker using a heat diffuser pad at the end of the process. It took me less than five minutes to relocate my German-made pressure cooker in the caverns of my pantry and the heat diffuser, still hanging by its leather thong on the pantry wall. It is now scrubbed and ready to go when I begin cooking again later this week.

The feature article in the NYTimes Magazine today about Jeong Kwan, the Zen Buddhist nun from South Korea who cooks temple food for herself and two other nuns, occasional monks and visitors inspired me a few days ago. Perhaps this latest “discovery” of Jeong Kwan might someday lead to a cookery book (certainly there will be a big push to do one since the subject herself, the topography and her slow methods of producing condiments from scratch lend themselves to our cookery times.) But it won’t happen tomorrow or the next day so in the meantime, there are enough ideas in the aforementioned books to satisfy my cooking learning curve for awhile.

Here’s a link to a cookbook in my library called “The Heart of Zen Cuisine.”

“healthy” meets “foodie” . . .

guacamole post

Wow! Once you actually look around the grocery store, outside of the usual places we always go to, there are lots of new non-gluten, non-sugar foodstuffs to try out. One of my favorites is “Better Chip” spinach-kale corn chips. They were so full of flavor, crunchy and tasty with the homemade guacamole that I made for lunch today.

I followed the usual guacamole recipes and used two just-ripe avocados, three tiny ripe tomatoes, cut up, about 2 tablespoons of chopped red onion, a bunch of fresh cilantro leaves (makes all the difference); fresh lime juice and a scoop of asian hot chili sauce. I mixed it up into a rough chop mash and tasted it with one of the spinach/kale chips. Honestly, I could eat like this forever!

You know those volcanic rock mortars on legs that you can get to make guacamole? It’s called a “mocajete,” I think. I looked at one on the Williams-Sonoma website but in the back of my mind was thinking that I already had a bowl that would lend itself perfectly to serving guacamole. Sure enough, the bowl in the photo above that I’ve had for ages, was made from a thick slab of clay by Sandy Brown (an English potter) and has a deep well for a bowl that was perfect. It’s boosted my confidence that efforts to reduce glucose needn’t be dreary and/or boring.

On another note, even though I’m not really eating much fruit during the intensive part of this regimen (7 more weeks to go,) there were fresh strawberries and rhubarb on sale yesterday that I brought home to stew together into a compote. It took a little time because there were so many strawberries to rinse off, cut up and remove a lot of the white parts inside, cooked in a pot with the sliced rhubarb. No water was added, just heated up the berries and rhubarb over low and then medium heat. It cooked down incredibly quickly, and after it cooled, I added a tablespoon of agave nectar to sweeten it slightly. (Next time, I’ll use stevia instead.)  I ate a small serving of it just like that and G. had the fruit spooned over Haagan Daz vanilla swiss almond ice cream.

Since nuts are both good for you and tasty, I happened upon a brand of cashew nut butter that is dry roasted and combined with safflower oil. I don’t know if it’s the dry roasting process or what, but “Crazy Charlie’s” cashew butter is satisfying for a one-spoonful snack because it’s so full of flavor. When I first opened it, there was some separation of oil and I stirred it up until it was thoroughly mixed. I read a tip online to store it in the refrigerator so that it doesn’t separate again. Perfect!

Rather than dipping it straight out of the jar, I found these “super seed” crackers, manufactured by “Mary’s Gone Crackers” that are made from: “organic whole grain brown rice, oranic whole grain quinoa, organic pumpkin seeds, organic sunflower seeds, organic brown flax seeds, organic brown sesame seeds, organic poppy seeds, filtered water, sea salt, organic seaweed, organic black pepper, organic herbs. Zero grams of sugar. I guess they’re really organic – as you can see from the way they listed the ingredients on the box.

So, eating differently is starting to feel a little lighter — which is also the way I walked this morning, not clomping my feet along but just stepping lightly without trying too hard. I’m unusually undisciplined so to do anything four days in a row is pushing it for me. Mentally, I didn’t feel like going for my walk this morning but I made myself do it and am glad I did. It does make a difference that I’m answering up at my physical which is scheduled for mid-July.

And so, I’m finding that alternative eating, and living, doesn’t have to be punishment. It doesn’t have to be laborious or a dirge of “should-haves” rather than being free to enjoy what we want. Our dinners are now two dishes, max. It used to be three or four dishes a night (protein, vegetable, carb (potato, sweet potato, rice, couscous) and a salad. Now, we have protein and either a cooked vegetable OR a large salad. The protein is a third of the size of the vegetables which easily takes care of portion control.

For sure, these fancy spinach/kale chips, super seed crackers and roasted cashew nut butters are pricey. Okay, expensive. They probably cost a third more than I might pay for ordinary goods. However, there are only a few of them in my pantry and they are exponentially more tasty, interesting and healthy to eat.

The non-gluten, low sugar eating movement has triggered the development of new products that also appeal to “foodies” like me. Michio Kushi and his wife, Aveline, started natural food stores with Erewhon decades ago. But until recently, health food stores seemed medicinally oriented (no pun intended) and it sometimes felt like one was shopping for food in a pharmacy rather than browsing in a gourmet delicatessen.

Now, It feels like we have entered the dawn of an alternative era: healthy meets foodie! And it’s a good one!






buddha’s delight . . .

. . . soaking daylily buds, wood ear and shitake mushroom

. . . soaking daylily buds, wood ear and shitake mushroom

On Sunday, I spent all afternoon cleaning out the pantry. It was hot and the task was frustrating, having to temporarily lump disparate things in grocery bags in order to make enough space to reorganize things; then looking for where to store leftover hodge-podge goods. For once, I put food basics (rice, flour, salt, sugar) together and most often used equipment (oval gratin and baking equipment) together (DUH!) For someone slightly OCD, you might have expected I would have figured this out long ago! Better now than never.

It was also embarrassing or humorous, however you want to look at it to find out how consistent I am in my preferences; e.g., duplicates or similar ruffled pastry pans, some with removable bottoms; two extra-large cooling racks; twin muffin pans and so on.

When I consolidated the Asian foodstuffs into a white plastic three drawer storage unit on wheels (for only $11.99 at Target) there were numerous packets of dried tiger lily root ( a key component for making buddha’s delight) and wood ear (which gives texture to that same dish.) In fact, I calculated that I must have enough of these two ingredients to make buddha’s delight every week for a very long time.

Actually, that’s not really a bad idea. It was one of my cousin Pei-Fen’s favorite Chinese vegetarian dishes to cook. We shared it one last time together five years ago in her kitchen before she died this Spring. I’ve made it at home since but have as yet to come up with what made hers so definitively Buddha-ish. I think that it’s due to the fineness with which she sliced the cabbage, daylily root, tree ear and soaked mushroom pieces. The ingredients were mere slivers, resulting in a cooked melange of cabbage, aromatic with a little soy sauce and sesame oil added at the end. This dish, to me at least, is all about TEXTURE. The slightly bland flavor of the vegetables is married to their texture. It’s somehow aromatic and chaste at the same time: an ascetic aesthetic!

If you find recipes for Buddha’s Delight online, you’ll see an incredible diversity of ingredients that people use in this dish. My nirvana dish is purist and classic: no meat or shellfish of any kind; no eggs, no carrots, no broccoli florets, no snow peas, no bamboo shoots, no water chestnuts, no bean sprouts, no apple. . . nothing but a head of cabbage (not coleslaw, bok choy or napa) sliced by hand with a handful of the daylily buds, tree ear and shitake mushrooms. Graced with a little seasoning (soy sauce, mirin, oyster sauce and sesame oil) and a bit of water to steam the vegetables to a tender bite if needed. That’s it.

So today, starting little by little to use up this surfeit (glut) of ingredients, I soaked the makings in order to try my hand again at duplicating Pei-Fen’s dish. I had also cooked some brown rice the other day that I’ll use tonight to make something to eat along with the buddha’s delight: fried brown rice with edamame (soybeans), toasted nori (seaweed) and sliced scallions. The Buddha’s Delight dish will be more than enough and should last for a couple of days. Tomorrow, we’ll have it again along with buckwheat soba noodles in ginger broth.

Here are some tips for making my version of buddha’s delight:

1. Soak a half-handful of dried daylily buds, dried wood er and dried shitake mushrooms (3) in warm water until all are softened (this takes awhile to soak so just start it earlier in the day)
2. Rinse pieces and drain well to rid of any grit.
3. Trim daylilies of hard stem ends and slice into thirds
4. Trim wood ear and slice up, removing any hard or rigid pieces in the center
5. Remove stems from softened shitake mushrooms and slice into small slivers
6. Squeeze and drain all of water.

cleaned, sliced, rinsed

cleaned, sliced, rinsed

7. Heat a medium size skillet and pour in grapeseed oil to make a thin film
8. When hot, saute three scallions, trimmed, split and sliced into 1 inch pieces.
9. Add the daylily, wood ear and mushrooms; saute over medium high heat and mix together.
10. Add 1 tablespoon organic soy sauce (Ohsawa); 1 tablespoon mirin or cooking sherry, 2 tablespoons oyster sauce, 2 teaspoons of xylitol (sugar substitute) and mix together–the mixture will be aromatic and smell wonderful. This is a brief braising step that helps these ingredients to soak up flavor ahead of adding them to the plain cabbage.
11. Add a scant 1/4 cup of spring water, stir and mix everything together, letting the water steam and soften the mixture. Let sit on very low heat for about 20 minutes until ready to cook the cabbage.
braised daylily, wood ear and shitake mushrooms

braised daylily, wood ear and shitake mushrooms

Last steps:
1. Rinse head of cabbage clean. Slice large wedges and then cut each wedge into tiny slivers, using a cleaver or sharp kitchen knife. For the ingredients above, I used a little more than half a head of cabbage

half a thinly sliced head of cabbage

half a thinly sliced head of cabbage

2. Use a large skillet and heat up grapeseed oil to cover the bottom. When hot, put the cabbage slivers in and saute, coating the cabbage and sprinkling with some sea salt
3. Stir the cabbage which will soften with the salt; make sure the cabbage is cooked dry
cabbage cooking in the pan

cabbage cooking in the pan

4. Add the skillet of braised mushroom, daylily and wood ear mixture to the cabbage
5. Stir it all together until well mixed
6. Remove to a serving dish
7. Add a tiny bit of sesame oil on top of the vegetables and stir to mix in the flavors
. . . Buddha's Delight

. . . Buddha’s Delight

1. Defrost half a bag of frozen shelled edamame (soybeans) in warm water and drain well
2. Have on hand a cup of previously cooked brown rice
3. Finely cut up three scallions at sharply angled diagonal slices
4. Heat up a clean skillet with grapeseed oil
5. Saute the green onions in the skillet, add brown rice and stir fry
6. Add edamame to rice mixture
7. Have a little dashi broth & a squirt of organic soy on hand to moisten and add a little flavor to the dish
8. Stir in nori, sesame rice condiment and mix gently.

. . . brown rice with edamame and nori

. . . brown rice with edamame and nori

Note: To enlarge photos, click once; to magnify, click twice on the image.

Postscript: We finished all but a small dab of rice and there’s half a handful of Buddha’s Delight left over. Maybe I’ll make it again next Tuesday.

nourishment . . .

DSCN4691I was skype-ing with my daughter, M. this morning when she skipped into the kitchen to show me the dish that had just finished cooking in the rice cooker. To my astonishment, she spooned out what can only be called a melange of rices (arborio, minnesota wild rice, sweet brown rice, Japanese medium grain rice). She then proceeded to tell me, between mouthfuls of rice, that she had not eaten meat, dairy or eggs for the last four weeks, nourished mostly by grains, vegetables and a few treats (like sugarless reese’s peanut butter cups) that she had made herself.

Since she also goes to school, she sometimes presses the rice into the palm of her hand, adds fresh edamame (soybeans) and sometimes wraps the rice balls in nori (seaweed sheets) and brings them for lunch or mid-afternoon snack. By this time, I had mentally scuttled my plans for dinner tonight. I had a cornish hen in the fridge that I usually cut in half, make a little herb bread dressing and then roast the halves on the dressing, basting the hens with melted orange marmalade. This is after I’ve browned the cornish hen halves in a little olive oil and a pat of butter.

Changing gears, I rummaged around my pantry this afternoon and came up with Chinese sweet sticky rice, brown rice, white rice and some wild rice packets. M. had also said that sometimes she cooks the rices with a bit of shoyu and fresh cut up button mushrooms. So my first experiment with this was to combine the three rices with the wild rice packet including seasonings. Then, I cleaned six button mushrooms, sliced them in chunks and plopped them into the rice mixture along with spring water, scantly twice the amount of the combined rice in the rice cooker.

I looked at the cornish hen, rinsed it in cold water, dried it and then cut it into small pieces–legs, wings, and split the breast. Then I marinated it in a small amount of Korean Bulgagi barbecue sauce, sliced green onion and fresh ginger root for about an hour. Broiled the pieces with a quick brush of honey to crisp the skin.
The rest of the meal consisted of cucumber salad, the tiny crisp cucumbers quarter sliced, then dressed with a small mix of Ohsawa unpasteurized soy sauce, Marukan flavored Japanese vinegar and a little sesame oil. I boiled up a handful of edamame beans to serve as garnish on top of the rice when it was served. DSCN4685

This meal was far more interesting and contained a lot less fat than the dinner I had planned earlier (stuffed cornish hen with baked potatoes.) My thanks to M. for her ideas–she looks radiant from her new regimen and is moving toward vegan/macrobiotic eating. I took a macrobiotic cooking class at Kushi Institute years ago when I had a form of viral meningitis and was determined to heal myself with food and Chinese herbs. G. enjoyed the new rice melange with mushrooms and we made up a plate for our tenant who lives downstairs.

With a blizzard forecasting anywhere from a foot to two feet of snow this weekend, I’m already thinking about the best time to make a large pot of beef shin and vegetable soup with fresh cabbage. On Friday before the storm hits, I’ll slow roast a large chicken that was on sale at the grocery store today along with a handful of baked potatoes. If the power goes out, we’ll have food to provide for all who live here. And then some.

Postscript: I’ve found that by starting three rices (brown, sticky and white rice) in the rice cooker using chicken broth earlier than usual, then letting the cooked rice steam in the cooker for an hour or so afterwards produces delicious, chewy, rice that goes well (better!) with just about everything than plain white rice. I cook twice as much as I need because the leftover rice is also tasty the next day with our evening meal.

fortune . . .

It was eighty-four degrees outside while I drove back from Brookline after my shiatsu treatment yesterday. It’s the third week in March and it felt like the middle of May! Since it was so warm outside, I decided to swing by one of my favorite Chinese restaurants in Framingham and pick up something for dinner on the way home. I ordered three cold appetizer dishes that weren’t on the regular “take-out” menu: drunken chicken, pickled szechuan cabbage, braised bean curd skin and some brown rice.

When I arrived home, I opened my mail, and in it was a beat-up paperback translation of the “Tao te Ching” dating to the 1960’s that I had found online by chance. I browsed Read the rest of this entry »