Money WELL spent.

Hello dear readers,
It has been while, hasn't it?
Until recently, I think I was really in the middle of a deep re-adjustment period. Life here in Canada, teaching yoga, is much much different than teaching English in Japan. Of course there is nothing like -35C weather to shake you out of your reverse culture shock slumber.
Different definitely isn't bad, though. While I do miss many things about Japan (i.e., tea, seaweed, beautiful countryside), I am really so happy these days. I just love teaching yoga and am so lucky to have been welcomed back with open arms and a bunch of classes right when I returned. T and I are loving our new house. I especially love the blue kitchen that comes complete with a working oven--- perfect for roasting winter squash.
The first few months I was home, I was so excited to find many of the products I missed: almond milk, much cheaper raw nuts, gluten free products, dark dark dark vegan chocolate etc. So, I baked my little heart away. Especially around Christmas. I managed to make vegan and gluten free versions of all my favourite family Swiss Christmas cookies, and reduced the sugar by at least half in all recipes. Challenge for next year is completely removing all sugar a la macrobiotics. So the past few months, my highlights and joys in the kitchen have been cookies, crumbles, muffins etc. Of course, I was still eating my regular meals, but didn't really find anything special that I wanted to post about.
But where was I?  Oh yes, the title of this post " Money WELL spent."
After about 3 years of reading and wanting, we finally purchased a pressure cooker.
And not just any pressure cooker, but apparently it's the "Mercedes of pressure cookers." Meet my new best friend:
Kuhn Rikon 8L family style pressure cooker.

I have used it almost every day since I opened the box.With my macrobiotic books in hand (well...arms, my hands are too small to hold all my macro books), and the pressure cooker book I ordered with the beast, I have been floating in Macrobiotic heaven.

Since first becoming interested in macrobiotics in the summer of 2008, I have regularly eaten whole grains, and lots of veggies and sea veggies, and tried to limit refined sugars. I have always liked simple seasonings, like flax oil, olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt, ginger, shoyu and tamari. I use natural sweeteners if I need a bit of something sweet, like brown rice syrup or maple syrup.  There are also some random stars that rotate through my fridge and dinner plate, depending on my mood etc. 

These include: tofu, nuts and seeds, nut and seed butters, fresh or dried fruit, canned beans, lentils, almond/rice/soy milk, puffed grain cereals, flaked grains, fish, sugar free jams,dark chocolate, and occasionally some goat cheese and of course, sometimes some actual sugar and even coffee (usually decaf).

But, despite all this, I always felt that I was missing part of the bigger macro picture, because I didn't really cook my own beans, or make many bean dishes.

First attempt at pressure cooker: red lentil stew with greens.

I have tried a few times, but the reality is that cooking chickpeas for 4 hours on the stove was and is not going to happen very often. So, I coveted the Kuhn Rikon Pressure Cookers (see end of post for a link to the cooker I bought). I dreamt of the day where I could throw beans and veggies in a pot and have a stew in less than 15 minutes.

And that time is now here! So far I have made: lentil and spicy green stew (two times), kabocha and adzuki bean stew, straight up brown rice, straight up millet, and whole oats. 
Kabocha & Adzuki Stew with Ginger, Tamari and Shitake Mushrooms

After eating at macro restaurants in Japan, T and I both knew we loved the taste of pressure cooked grains much better than boiled grains.
Simple Brown Rice. From Cabinet to Bowl in 25 minutes.

In short, the stews have been fantastic, the grains are unbelievably delicious, and the best part is that it is SO quick, safe, and easy to clean.

Expect many more macrobiotic recipes on here, as I can now make things so quickly to go along with steamed veggies, stir-frys and grains. I plan to try cooking with many more types of legumes and grains, and am beyond excited to delve once more back into the macrobiotic land. But don't worry, there will still be yummy treats: I just took carrot millet breakfast muffins out of the oven.

Leftover pressure cooked millet added to yummy carrot muffins!

I just ate whole oats every morning this whole week, and let me tell you, they have left me feeling much more "whole" than my usual bowl of rolled oats. Not that there's anything wrong with flaked grains--->so yummy. But whole oats are so satisfying on a deeper level!

What's the best thing you've bought recently? Has it improved your quality of life, or is it just for fun?

Here's to a happy weekend, and inventive pressure cooker recipes!

I added the Pressure cooker I bought under my shop link at the top of the page. 
Check it out for more information :)

Look what came in the mail!

Oh, how I love getting packages in the mail.

Yes, even when I order them myself, and am expecting them, hahaha.

Wanna see what I got from iHerb?
They are my no.1 place to order grains (oats) and health stuff like probiotics,
that I can't find in-store here in Japan.
Use my code ROP008 for 5% off and free shipping on your first order.

I got my staples, like:


and Dulse Powder.

And because I love breakfast so much, and now that it's winter I am totally into hot porridge, I wanted some ways to mix up my grains:

Steel Cut Oats 

Buckwheat Porridge, Brown Rice Cereal, and Scottish Oats.

And non-essentials but very enjoyable:

Mayan Cocoa Spice and Chai Roobois are great in the afternoon, and in the evening before bed I have been having some Dandelion Tea. Makes my liver happy :)

My no.1 favourite tea these days. So yummy with some almond milk.

What do you order from iHerb?
What are your current favourite teas?

She did the mash...she did the millet mash...

Yeah, you all know Monster Mash is the best song ever.

Mmmmmmmmm millet.

To begin making some delicious seed and grain patties, you need to first cook some millet! (my recipe is based off Margaret Lawson's that I found here).

I do it like this:

~1 c. rinsed millet
~1 small carrot diced
~1/2 c. diced squash (optional) I used butternut
~1 tsp salt
~4-5 c. cold water (when I use squash, I use about 5 c. of water)
Bring to boil and simmer for ~40 mins, Or be lazy like me and rice cooker it on the quick setting.

(the orange is the squash, and red is the carrot!)

For a bowl of delicious millet mash (see below pic), you can eat AS is. Be warnedโ€ฆalthough it is really soupy when done cooking, millet has a tendency to harden right up, kind of like when you cook cornmeal to make polenta.

To make some delicious Millet Patties, transfer 2 cups of the cooked millet to a bowl and mix in:
~1/4-1/3 c. sesame seeds
~1/4~1/3 c. sunflower seeds
~some diced onions or green onions (I used green onions that I lightly sautรฉed first)
~1/2 tsp sea salt
~ 2tbsp โ€“ 1/3 c. of cornmeal (oatbran could probably do the trick)
~any seasoning you want (I didn`t use any)

Now, the reason the cornmeal measurement is so varied, is that it depends on how firm your millet is. You need to be able to roll it into a ball, and press into patties. Depending on how much water you added when cooking, the amount of cornmeal may be bigger or smaller.

Heat a pan with some oil of your choice (sesame or coconut would work well). Brown the patties and flip, browning on the other side as well. Makes a big heaping stack. Serve plain, or on a bun if you wish. Enjoy!

**These are a great way to use up leftover grains if you have them. Simply sub in for the millet, and away you go (keeping in mind you may have to add a bit of water or liquid if the grains are dry, so that you can form patties). I am sure you could easily add some sort of legumes in these as well. Have you guys made your own seed/grain burgers at home? I am dreaming up an oatmeal/oatbran/coconut/cocoa/seed pattyโ€ฆ

Typical Macrobiotic Day

So I'm always talking about Macrobiotics. But what is macrobiotics? At least...what does it mean for me??
Well, there are plenty of books (I've got most of them kickin' around) that outline the philosophical principles behind macrobiotics, as well as what you can and cannot eat. I want to do a post really soon describing some of these things.
For now, to ease your curiosity (if you have any, that is), here is what it means for me:

A whole lotta whole grains (mostly short grain brown rice, quinoa, and whole oats--although sometimes i get a bit crazy and mix it up with some kasha, or toasted buckwheat, millet, and barley).

Also, a whole lotta veggies. Think greens (kale, collards, sometimes chard), daikon radish, carrots, shitake mushrooms, and squash if I have some.

My ideal breakfast is a serving (a really big one...haha) of whole grains topped with seaweed, with steamed or quick boiled greens, carrots, shitake and daikon radish. Well okay, my ideal MACROBIOTIC breakfast consists of these foods. I am a breakfast gal. My absolute favourite snack / meal at any time of the day was cold cereal. But once I tried macrobiotics, I realized how much BETTER I felt eating WHOLE grains...and have thus been transformed into this kind of breakfast lover.

And vegetables for breakfast? wtf mate? well...I wouldn't knock it till you try it!
They make you feel so lovely and balanced! (even though sometimes I gotta sneak in a bit of sweet at the end, via grains with brown rice syrup and cinnamon, or maybe a squeak of cocoa...shhh...don't tell anyone).

Don't even get me started on SEAWEED. I frickin' love it. I probably crave it the most out of any food now.I top ALL of my grains with a bit of seaweed. Even at breakfast. Dulse flakes are my best friend. I also cook wakame in with my rice...and would gorge every single day on seaweed salad if I could afford it.

Soup is also a major part of the macrobiotic diet. While most meals start with miso soup (1-2 times / day)I usually just sip the vitamin filled water that remains after I quick boil my veggies. I love miso soup, but generally seem to find soy upsetting to my poor little tummy, so I just have the veggie water/soup/stock with my meal (that is what is in the blue mug in the picture above).

The hardest part for most people on a macrobiotic is satisfying the sweet craving. I am a FRUIT LOVER, and this is where I used to get all my sweet satisfaction from. Since switching to a mostly macrobiotic diet, I try to not have that much fruit. They (the "macrobiotic gurus") recommend only having fruit 2-3 times per week--which is probably better for my easily-bloated tummy anyways. Instead, grain based sweeteners like amasake (fermented brown rice drink that is actually delicious), brown rice syrup and barley malt are recommended, and of course even better are sweet vegetables like squash or carrots, or sweet grains like oats! I usually stick to fruit for my fixin' (as little as my greedy little taste buds can make do with), and brown rice syrup. I use brown rice syrup to top off whole grains like brown rice, whole oats and quinoa, or even the less preferred rolled oats or the not so macrobiotic oat bran (not-so-macrobiotic because it is just one part of the grain, and not whole). I also sometimes make desserts using grains, and fruit with kuzu powder (japanese arrowroot)for a pudding like substance, or fruit and agar flakes (like gelatin, but a seaweed!) to make kanteens. If I make one again, i'll post pics. Check out the saladgirl's amazing blog for some macrobiotic dessert photos:

Another part of my typical macrobiotic day consists of:
chewing...REALLY REALLY well. I have a tendency to scarf down my food, always thinking of what to eat next, and I usually end up with a not-so-happy tummy and a burned tongue. Chewing starts the digestion process, and is SOOO important. It is a continuous goal of mine to chew more...up to 50X per bite!

Also, not eating when i'm not hungry....aka not mindlessly snacking...which I LOVE to do...a big challenge for me. I often end up failing at this *cough*my food dedicated blog with photos of glorious snacks*cough* but i'm trying...and i'm getting better at it.

What do I drink on a macrobiotic diet??
Well...not coffee, that is for sure. I do sometimes sneak in a latte made with almond milk...but that is rare...or rather, SHOULD be rare. teehee. Seriously though: I drink a lot of water, because it's free, and good for you. Kukicha tea (twig tea) is wonderful at balancing the body after a meal, and is a nice substitute for black tea and coffee. I also drink green tea! Dairy should be avoided on a macrobiotic diet, and it upsets me anyways, so that's okay. Sometimes I use unsweetened almond milk, or rice milk.

Fermented Foods are not part of a typical North American diet...but they are certainly important in a Macrobiotic one! Even though they make me a bit gassy (haha...because i'm sure you wanted to know) I try to eat some whenever I can. For me, this usually means a bit of naturally fermented sauerkraut, some pickled daikon radish...and miso occasionally.

And lastly...but what about seasoning, flavouring, and oils?? Well: I usually sprinkle some flax oil on my grains, and some Udo's 3-6-9 oil on my greens (or vice versa). Other oils I use are sesame, toasted sesame, and occasionally olive oil. Toasted nuts and seeds are a great topping as well: pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds. Roasted sesame seeds, and sesame salt (gomaisho) are delicious too! And of course, to give your food a bit of a zing: lemon, umeboshi vinegar, ume paste, rice vinegar for sushi, and tamari or soy sauce in cooking (although I have been avoiding it as per soy-tummy-trouble). And of course SEA SALT. I use a pinch when cooking grains, and sometimes sprinkle some on my steamed veggies.

Whew. That was a lot to digest....sorry guys. Make sure you let your mind chew it over really well ;)

Maybe I'll post some photos from tonight's dinner...this is all for now...but there will me more to come, and any questions are welcomed!