Pressure Cooking 101, steps 5 through 8

Step 5: Read through the manual and identify the various parts, get a general idea of how to operate your cooker.

*This may lead you to wonder what people have against broccoli. Eight minutes in a pressure cooker? I don’t even steam broccoli for that long, so at first I thought they just didn’t know anything about cooking vegetables, but… then I read how long to cook Brussel Sprouts. Four minutes. Probably accurate, but seriously who cooks Brussel Sprouts for less time than broccoli? The resulting limp, army green broccoli is exactly why people think they don’t like it.*

Step 6: Having thoroughly read the owner’s manual attempt the water test. Fill the pressure cooker with 2 cups of water and bring to pressure. This will tell you whether your particular pressure cooker is functioning or not.

Interestingly, you take the cooker up to pressure over high heat and then if you have a gas stove top you lower the heat to maintain pressure, but if you are cooking on an electric range you may need to use two burners. One would be set on high and the other on a low heat (or medium as needed) because electric burners tend to take longer to cool down. That said, I’ve heard some people have no problem using just the one burner even on an electric stove top.

Step 7: Start to play around with the minimum amount of water required to achieve and maintain pressure. My manual says 1/2 cup, but my pressure cooker will hold pressure with only 1/4 cup of water. I suppose this step could be optional, I would never have tried it except forthe fact that Jill Nussinow recommends doing so in my “textbook”, The New Fast Food, since some of her recipes call for fairly low amounts of water.

Also, as recommended in Jill’s book, I tried the quick release method of lowering the pressure. Wherein you run cold water over the lid, as most likely illustrated in your users manual.

(Steps 6 and 7 will also help you overcome any residual fear of pressure cookers you may be harboring.)

Step 8: Actually cook something! Pick something simple, one ingredient. And, I would recommend something that cooks quickly for your first time through. I made banana squash, cubed (large cubes) and with about 1/2 cup of water added to the pressure cooker, it took 3 minutes at pressure to cook! I’m half in love already. In addition to being super speedy it was cooked to perfection, something that frankly doesn’t usually happen when I cook squash in the oven. I didn’t use the quick release method, since it was winter squash and I wasn’t worried about it overcooking. Instead, I just waited for the pressure to decrease naturally while I finished our salad dressing. Seriously, loving this!

*Disclaimer – I have not actually tried cooking broccoli in a pressure cooker for 8 min. so maybe it doesn’t really result in limp, soggy, army green, and unappetizing broccoli. But, I’d be surprised if it didn’t.



Saving Money on a Whole Foods Diet: Shop somewhere besides your grocery store

In addition to grocery/health food stores (feel free to compare prices, coupon, etc. at these conventional locations 😉 ), I have used, or currently use the following sources for our food.

Bountiful Baskets (currently an option in 20 different states), Bountiful Baskets delivers a couple of baskets worth (conventional), or a box (organic) of produce weekly to a drop point, where you pick up your produce. You don’t get to pick what you’ll get, but it’s only $15 or $25 each week depending on the option you choose. This is not a long term commitment, you need to re-order each week that you want to participate. The down side (if you’re not a morning person) is that typically the pickup time is early in the morning. Also, volunteers are needed to help unload and distribute the produce, that starts even earlier.

Azure Standard (I think this is only available in Utah, Wyoming, and South Eastern Idaho), on the other hand is a great source for bulk organic food items. They carry some produce, for instance I commonly order 20# boxes of apples from them. However, for me the main attraction is the 25# to 50# bulk dry goods available at extremely reasonable prices. Other products, like applesauce or olives, are available by the case and often as an order of 3 (as opposed to the case of 12). Once a month your order is delivered to a drop point where you meet the truck to pick up your order.

Local CSA farms are another unconventional source for your produce. Sometimes they are not a lot cheaper than the grocery store, or farmer’s market (also an option), but getting your weekly allotment of produce makes trips to the grocery store a lot less necessary and can save on impulse purchases. An added bonus with this option is that you know your produce is fresh and seasonal. Go ahead and do an internet search for local CSA’s in your area, they are all across the country and I would be surprised if there isn’t one somewhere near you.

Additionally, check to see if there is a co-op in your area. This often involves asking around, co-ops may not invest time in a web site, especially if they are well established.

Sometimes Amazon or other online sources will have a good price too.

Additionally, warehouse stores like Costco can be good supplemental sources for food. As long as you’re not an impulse shopper that will end up spending more than you save. 😉

And of course, compare the prices in local stores with your options when ordering from other sources.


Saving Money on a Whole Foods Diet: Buy Whole Foods


This gets you the most nutrient density for your dollar.

I mention it because many people switching to “healthy” or vegan diets automatically convert their processed food buying habits over to buying processed health food. Obviously expensive, and on top of that, not so healthy.

If you’re not already doing this, it may take some time to transition from mixes and processed food. Maybe you’ll even decide that it’s just not worth it to you, fine. However, if you are interested in making a change, I suggest you start gradually.

*Buy a head of lettuce instead of bagged salad mix.
*Make your own salad dressing, rather than purchasing it already made.
*Stop buying chips and other packaged snack foods – learn to substitute fresh fruit, nuts, and homemade treats.
*Try making your own soy, almond, or rice milk.
*Learn to make bread.

You get the idea. I think we get so used to buying processed ready made foods that it’s easy to forget there’s another option.

Here’s a post from Melissa with more ideas on this same topic.

Remember to focus on things like; fresh vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts and seeds in their natural state with nothing added or taken away.


Saving Money on a Whole Foods Diet


Originally this was going to be a single post.

But, I’ve decided that the topic can be better addressed as a series.

So, to be clear, this is not about saving money on groceries in general. Lots of people talk about that, lots of people are obsessed with that. Lots of people say that that is why they don’t eat a whole foods diet, or a vegan diet, or whatever it is they don’t want to eat.

This is for those of you already committed to a whole foods diet.

As new posts are written I will add links here to make it easy to follow the series.

How to cut costs and eat healthy whole foods:

1) Buy Whole Foods
2) Buy in Bulk When Practical
3) Shop Somewhere Besides Your Grocery Store
4) Plan Your Menus
5) Grow a Garden


A World of Baked Potato Adventure Awaits!

Usually, when I prepare potatoes I either make oven-baked fries, mashed potatoes, hashbrowns, boil them for potato salad, or serve them baked and topped with steamed veggies & Spicy Vinaigrette Dressing. Oh, and I almost forgot, Thick & Creamy Potato Soup.
However, in catching up on cooking blogs I discovered a treasure trove of potato preparation ideas. A guest poster on listed a variety of options for your potato eating pleasure. I am especially intrigued by the “hot dog” style potato since I too love the toppings, but (obviously) can live with out the hotdog.
Trying that out is definitely in my future.


Bread: A Template – part 2

We’ll start with the water, 3 to 3 1/2 cups will give you an average size batch of bread dough. This makes 2 or 3 loaves, or a loaf and a bunch of rolls, etc. I pour in about 1/2 of the amount from room temperature filtered water, and the other half out of my tea kettle (heated of course), not necessarily boiling, but quite hot. (I will say here, that some people – Chef Brad for instance – dump in all the ingredients, half the flour, and add the yeast on top to avoid any risk of killing it with water that’s too hot. So, if you’re interested you can look into that method.) You’re going for “wrist temperature” water in the mixer, that means quite warm, but not anywhere near boiling.

Add in a bit of sweetener, 1/2 teaspoon is sufficient here, but who wants to measure? This could be almost anything; like molasses, agave, barley malt, rice syrup or honey.

Now add in your yeast, about 1 Tablespoon is good for a batch of this size.

Let this proof – proving to you that the yeast is active and happy.

Add in a few cups (about 3) of the flour (this needs to be a gluten containing flour, like wheat or spelt) for the sponge stage where you’ll let this raise for 1/2 hour or so. Of course bread can be made without this step, in fact if you have a mixer you could just mix it longer to develop the gluten, but I think using the sponge step leads to lighter whole grain breads.

Now, for the fun part.
Decide how much oil, sweetener, etc. that you want to add, 1/4 to 1/2 cup of each is a good range. I actually use less oil than that and often less sweetener. (Rather than adding any oil you could use ground flax seeds). Be sure to include salt, bread made without it will remind you never to do so again. Use about 1 Tablespoon for a batch this size.
You can at this point also include seasonings, herbs, soaked/cooked grains, or nuts in your creation.

Some suggestions:
For a french style bread you’ll want to leave the oil and sweetener out entirely.
For a richer dough you could use more oil/ground flax seed and even sub some non-dairy milk for part of the liquid.

Add/knead in the additional flour. This does not all need to have a high gluten content. For instance some of it could be oat flour, which does not contain gluten. Continue to add flour until the dough begins to leave the sides of the bowl. You want it a bit sticky, this gives a softer bread, be especially careful when using a mixer which can make it easy to add too much flour.

Here we have what you could call the official “template”, to be used as a jumping off point.

3 – 3 1/2 cups water
drop of sweetener
1 Tablespoon yeast
at least 4 cups of a gluten containing flour, such as spelt or wheat in it’s many variations.
1 Tablespoon salt
Oil or ground flax seed
Honey or other sweetener
Any desired additions
The rest of the flour, gluten or not depending on your creation

For more information on this method, and instructions with and without a mixer see the Basic Whole Wheat Bread recipe in our recipe section.


Bread: A Template – Part 1

I used to think it required special bread recipe for each new type of bread I wanted to make; crescent rolls, baugettes, pizza, etc. And while that might give your bread some subtle differences that those striving for perfection could appreciate, it’s often not a practical way to provide your family with bread. Who has time to make 4 different recipes in a week? So, that leaves you with the option of only eating one type of bread that week (I’ve done this a lot, not a bad option really), purchasing some of your bread ready made, or… becoming more flexible with the use of your basic bread recipe.

This way you can make bread once for a week, or two if you double the recipe. And still end up with your sandwich bread, rolls, pizza, buns, or whatever else is needed for the week (because you planned your menus, so you know what you need, right?). Here’s a very basic bread recipe, it doesn’t get much more basic than this.

However, I’ll elaborate on it a bit, and you should be able to come up with your own recipe’s in the future. I will say too, that making bread is one of those things you need to actually DO before you entirely “get it”. It’s not hard though, just a new skill that will take a small time investment to catch on to.

This will be a three part series, so stay tuned. 🙂