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Cauliflower bok choy soup

Cauliflower and baby bok choy soup

Spring has sprung, but we’re still getting some cold, rainy days here. Is that true for you? The good news: It’s not too late for a steaming bowl of soup! Tonight, it’s creamy cauliflower and baby bok choy, our lower-carb alternative to an old rainy-day comfort–potato soup.

A simple lunch of cauliflower soup with whole wheat scones from our local patisserie

A simple lunch of homemade cauliflower soup with whole wheat scones from our local patisserie

When the skies turn gray and the winds chill, we look to the flavors of old-fashioned soups for warmth and comfort. Mom made potato soup on nights like this, always a family favorite. With potato’s glycemic index (GI) so high, we don’t indulge in all our favorite spud dishes like we used to.  The doctor says we have to watch that sugar/carbohydrate thing, so I fiddle with beloved recipes, trying to make them better for us without losing the comforting aromas, textures and tastes in the process.

Cauliflower and baby bok choy, washed and draining in the colander

Cauliflower and baby bok choy, washed and draining in the colander

Fortunately, the humble cauliflower is good for us in dozens of ways, has a lower GI than potatoes, and makes a pretty good substitute. It helps that we love its taste.  So cauliflower is one of my go-tos whenever I’m craving potato-something. Pairing it with tender strips of baby bok choy and grated carrot makes this soup all the more wholesome, nutritious, appealing and good to taste.

In fact, this cauliflower soup stands up to that darling old standby fantastically–a new favorite at our house. One of these days, I’ll try making a vegan version, with coconut milk and oil in place of the dairy. When I do, I’ll come back here and let you know how it turned out.

Chopped baby bok choy, cauliflower florets and grated carrot

Chopped baby bok choy, cauliflower florets and grated carrot

Btw, if you have an immersion, aka stick blender, this soup is rather fast and easy to make. If you have to transfer to a regular blender, add extra time for handling and cleanup. I encourage you to invest in a stick blender. I use mine many times a week. (See my Breville stick blender review on HubPages.) Handy, and saves on cleanup time too.

The pan-blended base, before adding the remaining florets, carrots, bok choy and whole milk; don't worry if it gets a little foamy; that will dissolve soon;

The pan-blended base, before adding the remaining florets, carrots, bok choy and whole milk; don’t worry if it gets a little foamy; that will dissolve soon;

You can see my soup gets a bit frothy when I blend it with the stick blender. That will dissipate as I add the other vegetables and cook them, but if I’m not in a hurry, I can avoid the froth with one extra step–separating the solids from the liquid before pureeing. Here’s a quick how-to for beginners.

Quick Tip for beginners

How to keep a creamy soup from foaming when blending

First, test several pieces of vegetable with a fork or skewer to assure they are soft all the way through. Next, to prevent excess foaming, carefully strain the hot soup through a large, sturdy sieve placed over a non-breakable bowl, such as stainless steel. Return the vegetables to the kettle, (or place in a stand blender), and puree them till smooth, then gradually stir the hot liquid back into the puree in the pan and proceed with your recipe.

Creamy or darker, with nuts or without

To make this soup as pale and creamy as potato soup, I caramelize the alliums lightly, puree more of the florets, and use half n half or cream in place of the milk. Other times, I want a more rustic flavor and let the onions and garlic go all golden brown, with crispy bits about the edges, when I saute them. This version is especially good garnished with freshly ground black pepper and toasted cashews as you see here.

A heartier-flavored version of the soup, with more deeply caramelized onions and garlic and garnished with toasted cashews and fresh ground black pepper

A heartier-flavored version of the soup, with more deeply caramelized onions and garlic and garnished with toasted cashews and fresh ground black pepper

The moral of this story for newer cooks (and for my grandchildren if they’re finally old enough to read my recipes) is: Don’t be afraid to experiment a little. Take a simple recipe like this and change it in subtle or bold ways. It will almost always be good. But enough with the preliminaries already. Here’s the recipe!

Cauliflower and baby bok choy soup recipe

  • Servings: 8
  • Time: 45 mins
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Only a blustery, cold day, this nutritious soup warms and comforts like our old favorite potato soup. The greens add color as well as extra vitamins and minerals.

If you have it on hand, use vegetable soup stock in this recipe in place of the water. Quite often, I make this on the fly, and if I don’t have stock handy, I go with water, as I did here, which makes for lighter, brighter palate play. While I love the depth of flavor one gets with a good homemade vegetable stock, the nuances of fresh, new vegetables pop and shine when they make their own broth.

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large head cauliflower, about 1-1/2 lbs
  • 3/4 t Sea salt
  • 2-3 Baby bok choy, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 1 C whole milk (can use half ‘n half or cream)
  • 1 T unsalted butter
  • White ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews, optional

Directions

  1. In stock pot or kettle, saute chopped onion in 1-2 tablespoons water until nearly transparent and lightly caramelized, adding another teaspoon or so water as necessary.
  2. Meanwhile, remove cauliflower leaves, if any and florets from cauliflower stalk and set aside. Chop cauliflower stalk and any larger butt ends of the leaves into medium chunks and add, along with the minced garlic, to the onions. Continue to saute, adding a teaspoon or so of water as necessary, until slightly caramelized.
  3. Add half the florets, especially the ugliest ones and enough water to cover all, plus one inch more. Over medium heat, bring to gentle boil and cook till cauliflower is tender.
  4. Remove pan from flame and, using a stick blender, puree until creamy and smooth. (If you don’t have a stick blender, of course, you can transfer the vegetables to a regular blender, puree, then transfer back to the cooking pot.)
  5. Add the grated carrot, remaining cauliflower florets and leaves, and the chopped bok choy to the soup and cook on medium low (not quite boiling) until florets are nearly tender and bok choy bright green.
  6. While the soup finishes, toast the cashews, if using, in a dry skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat, turning constantly until nicely caramelized, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  7. In a heat-proof container, whisk together the milk or cream with half a cup of hot liquid from the kettle, adding it one tablespoon at a time. (This prevents curdling.) Stir the warmed milk into the soup, add the butter and pepper and stir until well combined. Serve.

Ladle into bowls, garnish with cashews and serve immediately with crusty bread or a favorite savory scone recipe. Fresh autumn pears make a lovely, refreshing dessert with this soup. Store leftovers for 3-5 days in a large Fido jar. I find these jars keep my soups fresher and don’t let the flavors escape into the fridge.


A YayYay's Kitchen Recipe

This is a YayYay’s Kitchen original recipe. Please link back to this page if you base a recipe of your own on this one.

Share your cold-weather comfort food recipe

What’s your favorite dreary-day comfort food? I invite you to share a link to your recipe in the comments below. If you try this one, do come back and let me know how it worked for you.

The original "love jar" plus 3 new water and rice jars

Love and 4 jars of rice and water: Experiment #3

On March 1, sans grandchild (she was in school), I started the third month’s experiment with rice, water, gratitude and kindness. She and I had discussed what we wanted to do differently this month. Here’s what happened.

First, we made a few changes in procedure

This month, we changed the procedure from what we had done in January. (If you’re new to this series, see box below this section for its origins and why we’re doing it.)

  1. Sterilize the jars and lids. In January, I used clean, unsterilized jars and lids. On March 1, I sterilized all three jars and the three flat canning lids I used to protect the contents from contamination (or so I thought–more on that later).
  2. Change rice and water ratios. In January, we used twice as much rice as in March and considerably less water. That caused problems, so we adjusted the ratio in March, as you’ll see below.
  3. Keep the January “love jar.” In addition to the three new jars in March, I included the love jar from the January and February experiments. At the beginning of March, the rice and water in that jar still appeared clean and smelled of fermentation, not of rot.
  4. Treat the four jars exactly the same. In January, we had three jars. To one, I spoke loving gratitude. To the next, “You idiot!” The last jar, I ignored completely. In March, I would treat the four jars exactly the same, greeting them with loving gratitude, one after the other.

That’s it.  Each day, save two when I was busy enough to forget completely, I folded my hands, Namaste style, and bowed to the rice, greeting each one with that centering word. This helped me stop, take a deep breath and focus. Then I addressed each jar, one by one, with the same gratitude and healing thoughts. My granddaughter checked in on the rice when she visited. Neither she nor her sister cared for the odor. Both have younger noses than mine, apparently.

About this ongoing chain of experiments

On January 1, my granddaughter and I replicated, as nearly as possible, an experiment we had seen discussed in a documentary video titled Secret of Water. The video briefly mentions an experiment conducted by Dr. Masaru Emoto, who set up three identical beakers of rice and water in his lab. Each day, for thirty days, he approached the beakers. To the first one, he expressed loving gratitude. To the second, he loudly stated, “You idiot!” He ignored the third jar completely, neither looking at it nor speaking to it.

At the end of the thirty days, the video showed us remarkable differences in the three jars. The rice and water in the “gratitude” jar was clear and clean, the contents having naturally fermented. The second and third jars had developed disgusting molds and rot.

My inquisitive granddaughter and I wanted to see what would happen if we tried this at home. You can read about our January and February versions of the experiment here and here, respectively.

Questions on our minds

At the beginning of the experiment, we were keen to learn what would happen to the jars this time. Would their contents ferment as did the rice and water in the January “love jar”? Would the rice in that jar finally rot? Or would it stay relatively clean? Would the rice and water in the others react with marked differences, or very little at all?

Why so much water this time?

As you can see in the photo first above, and again here, the jars have a good deal more water than rice this month. That’s a lot of water!

Three identical jars of rice and water on March 4, 2017

Three identical jars of rice and water on March 4, 2017

You may recall that in January, I measured (in grams, identical quantities for each jar) about half a cup of rice and enough water to cover the rice with half an inch to spare. Within a few days, the rice absorbed all the water, expanding and filling the jars two-thirds full. To keep as close to Dr. Masaru Emoto’s experiment as possible, I carefully measured, again in grams, enough water to bring the water level about half an inch above the rice line.

This month, I planned for the absorption. To each jar I added exactly 62 grams of rice (about 1/4 cup, or half what I used in January) and 262 grams of filtered water, which brought the water level to about the same height as in the January jars. Big surprise! As far as I could tell, the rice didn’t absorb a drop, not the first day, not the second or the fifth, or perhaps at all. Why?

The only sure difference between the rice and water in the January and March experiments is that on January 1, I opened the bag of rice for the first time. Before storing in a cool, dry spot in the pantry, I pressed out the air and rolled the top down, securing it with a clip. Could that relatively small exposure to air and light in January have changed its absorptive qualities so drastically? Did enough seep in despite my efforts to seal it shut?

Seems far-fetched, doesn’t it? The only other variable I can think of is temperature, which may have varied in our kitchen and on the back porch by several degrees throughout the experiments.

This is the rice I used, same as the rice I used in January

This is the rice I used, same as the rice I used in January

Btw, here’s the rice I’m using in these experiments. Typically, I buy organic, long grain brown rice in bulk, avoiding one-use plastic bags, but I wanted to cut as many variables as possible, so opted for this single source bag.

What happened to the rice during March?

In the first photo on this page, you see the four jars of rice as they appeared on March 4. Here you see the jars, including the January “love jar,” on March 17, and again on March 31, revealing significant change in the three new jars between the first and middle of the month, less in the latter half of the month.

The

The “Love jar” from the first two experiments, along with the three new jars, as they appeared on March 17

As you can see, from March fourth to the seventeenth, the rice appeared not to have absorbed any water at all, although it did change. The water in the new jars was rather cloudy and had a scum of bubbles and froth on top. The January love jar seemed not to have changed.

The

The “Love jar” from the first two experiments, along with the three March experiment jars, as they appeared on March 31

By the thirty-first, the jars showed very little additional change, except for the last jar on the right. There, the rice appears to be breaking down more rapidly than in any of the other jars. The bottom half-inch looks more like rice pudding than individual grains of rice.

What about spoilage and odor?

At mid-month, when I opened the jars to take photos of the surface of the rice and water, the odor was unpleasant, almost overwhelming. While the original “love jar” had changed very little, and in fact still smelled the sweetest of the four jars, the other three smelled a little spoiled.

“Love jar” at top, midway through its 3rd month, with the three newer jars

Photo note: Weirdly, the original love jar appears taller from this angle than the other three, but if you look at them in the horizontal view further up, you can see it’s actually slightly shorter.

Fly in the soup, er, rice

You can’t see it in these photos but early in the month we collected a fruit fly in the last jar, at the bottom. Apparently my flat canning jar lids don’t sit tight enough to prevent a tiny hungry fly from wiggling its way inside. Rather than risk adding more contaminants during removal, we decided to leave the fly. Could that have anything to do with the rice at the bottom of the jar turning to mush while the others did not?

What does the top scum look like?

By the end of the month, the January love jar had slightly fewer waxy islands than it had at the beginning of the month. The other three jars all had a layer of scum and bubbles. Here you see them, as they appeared, all together, on March 31. The odor emanating from them was not as strong as it had been on the seventeenth, and smelled more of fermentation than of rot.

The surface of the original

The surface of the original “Love jar” remains virtually unchanged, while the other three jars show varying stages of fermentation and perhaps the beginnings of mold

Here’s a close-up look at the jars, compared to how they looked at the beginning of the month. We’ll start with the three-month-old love jar. On the left, you see it as it appeared on February 27. The lighting is different on March 31 (right image), but otherwise little has changed. (Click on the photos to see larger images.)

Here are the three new “love” jars, as they appeared all together on March 4, immediately after adding first the rice, then the filtered water.

Unlike the first experiment, the water is filmy immediately upon filling the jars

Unlike the first experiment, the water is filmy immediately upon filling the jars

And here is the surface of each jar as they appeared on March 31. (Click to zoom.)

Jar #1 has a yellow-orange scum forming, along with some gassy bubbles, chained together with a thready substance. Jar #2 has more of the yellow scum and what appears to be either a cluster of quite fine bubbles or a white moldy mass growing in the center. The last jar, #3, with its decaying fruit fly, is mostly gassy bubbles, with small amounts of scum on the top.

Summary: Different outcomes

How did the rice and water behave differently in March than in January? Though not as dramatic as the differences between the love, idiot and ignored jars in the first experiment, we noticed several distinct differences at the end of the month between the two experiments.

Water absorption

January The rice bulked up and absorbed all the water within a couple of days, so I had to add more.
March The rice absorbed no water.

Water opaqueness on Day 1

January – On adding to the rice, the water in the jars was clear and clean.
March – On adding to the rice, the water immediately turned somewhat cloudy.

Appearance

January – The water and rice in the love jar remained mostly clear. The water and rice in the “idiot jar” and the ignored jar changed to a dirty brown; molds grew on top of the jars.
March – The love jar changed very little in appearance, still mostly clear, about the color of a light beer, and with apparently untainted rice. The water in the three new love jars turned a somewhat milky yellow and developed a bubbly yellow-orange scum on top. The middle jar grew noticeably more of the yellow-orange scum, covering nearly the entire surface, as well as a foamy cluster of fine bubbles, or perhaps a white mold in the center of the surface. The third jar developed less yellow-orange scum than the first two jars and more large bubbles; a good portion of the rice broke down in this jar as well, appearing, through the glass, to have a mushy or pudding-textured consistency.

Odor

January – The water and rice in the January love jar smelled slightly sweet and vinegary, The water and rice in the “idiot jar” and the ignored jar turned putrid, sickeningly so.
March – The January love jar still smelled faintly sweet and vinegary, more like fermentation than rot. The three new love jars grew more fetid during the first half of the month. That odor remained unpleasant, though less so, by the end of the month, and smelled more of fermentation than rot, though without the sweet notes of the January jar.

One more variable to consider

There’s one more variable that may have had an impact on the experiment: My state of mind.

In January, the thought that the experiment was working for us just as it had for Dr. Emoto gave me great hope that love might indeed be a way to solve the world’s terrible problems, a hope I desperately needed. Since November 8, as so many have done, I’ve fought a terrible sense of despair, accompanied by bouts of depression. Thank goodness I have long-practiced tools to deal with depression. It slows me down tremendously, though, and I feel the change in my body as well as my heart. Throughout January, this experiment, with its amazing results, renewed hope, put the bounce back in my walk and joy in my heart, on some days at least.

During February, that hope waned a bit, as I saw that sending love and healing to the fetid jars did not change their status. While the mold and rot seemed to arrest, it did not disappear. The fact it arrested kept me going.

March, however, brought ever more bad news. Our president seems to have no understanding whatsoever of the guarantees our Constitution gives its citizens, nor does he seem to give a fig for truth or facts. He has done and said things that appall and frighten me to my core. I fear he and his party will destroy everything good that our country and the world have tried to build since World War II, when another hateful man rose to power and nearly destroyed humankind. Throughout March, I struggled ever more with depression and with fear for the world I am leaving to my children and grandchildren.

Approaching the rice each day, I felt that dread and horror. With a broken heart, struggling to find hope, I bowed to the rice, speaking the words of gratitude and healing, realizing I spoke them as much for myself and for all the world as for these organic and liquid substances sitting in jars on my back porch.

Could that despair, ever lurking even as I briefly greeted the rice and water, have caused the jars to turn more sour than the January love jar?

The good news: While the rice and water this month did not stay as pure as the love jar during January, it did not go entirely rank and rotten either.  This gives me a little hope that loving gratitude can indeed change our lives, and perhaps our world. I press on.

Coming up: A new twist on this experiment

For April, I’m discarding these three jars of rice and water, but keeping the original January “love jar.” This time, I’ll repeat the January experiment, to see if we can replicate it, and also to see what happens to the original “love jar” in comparison to the new one. As always, your thoughts matter. Do share them, won’t you?

Snipping dill

Quick tip: Snip dill and other herbs

QuickTips4csPlace a frond or two of fresh dill, or any leafy herb on tender stems, in a 2-cup glass measuring cup or a deep, narrow bowl, then snip with your kitchen shears until you have just the texture you need for your recipe.

Spring has sprung and with it all things green, sprouting everywhere we turn, including bright, verdant locally-grown herbs in our farmer’s markets and grocery stores. Fresh dill is one I anticipate eagerly each March, along with fat, fleshy spears of asparagus. Seems like Ma Nature planned to pair them, doesn’t it?

So many ways to enjoy the two together–dill sprinkled over lightly steamed stalks, in salads with raw spears sliced on the diagonal, and my all-time favorite, this sunny asparagus quiche with dill-laced crust.

Some cooks don’t like messing with dill because it’s rather difficult to strip those delicate leaves from the stems. No problem! Fresh tender dill doesn’t need stripping. Pull the fronds whole from the thicker stems. Tuck them into a deep narrow container, like a glass measuring cup, and snip away with your clean kitchen shears. It takes mere seconds to snip a handful.

Snipping dill with the kitchen shears

Snipping dill with the kitchen shears

Snip ultra fine for soups or for pastries like these whole wheat asparagus scones with nettle-wrapped cheese, or leave longer strands for salads and that quiche I mentioned above.

Cheesy asparagus scones

Cheesy asparagus scones

Here you can see tiny strands of this aromatic herb in my quiche crust. They give it just that little extra oomph that makes an Easter or Mother’s Day brunch feel special.

Dill-infused whole wheat quiche crust

Dill-infused whole wheat quiche crust

This is one of those time-saving tricks that makes cooking from scratch such a pleasure. The color! The scent. The soft textures in your hands. Go ahead. Take a little taste. Cooking with fresh herbs engages all the senses.

Like this tip?

Let me know if this is a new trick for you, or one you’ve been doing since forever, won’t you? What’s cooking in your kitchen today?

"Love jar," "idiot jar" and ignored jar midway through the February experiment of sending love and gratitude thoughts to all three

Namaste and the three jars of rice and water: Experiment #2

Remember the rice, water and love experiment my granddaughter and I did in January? We didn’t stop there. We extended the experiment into February, with one difference: Instead of cursing the second jar and ignoring the third, we (or I most days) spoke only kindness to all three.

Could kind thoughts cleanse the rice and water in the two yukky jars and return them to a state similar to the “loved” jar? How would the rice and water in the first jar fare over another month? Would it spoil like its sisters? Stay the same? Improve?

Here’s how the rice looked on February 2.

3 jars of rice and water from the January experiment, each at different stages of fermentation and/or rot on February 2

3 jars of rice and water from the January experiment, each at different stages of fermentation and/or rot on February 2

The third grader held her nose when we checked on them, even before we lifted the lids. Her little sister wouldn’t come near them. When we opened the jars, we both squealed and gagged, covering our mouths and noses. The jar on the left, the “love jar,” didn’t seem that bad to me, wafting somewhat vinegary and sweet as it had a few weeks ago. The child disagreed. “It’s disgusting!” To her, fermentation smells no better than rot.

How the experiment changed in February

As you know, we started out in January with three identical jars of rice and water. Throughout January I spoke loving thoughts to the first jar. I’ve taken to calling it the love jar. The second jar received mean thoughts. I had trouble with that at first and eventually settled on “You idiot!” Hence, for purposes of this article, it is now the “idiot jar.” Following Dr. Masaru Emoto’s experiment in the film The Secret of Water, I ignored the third jar completely, neither looking at it nor speaking to it.

What was different this time around? In February, I projected loving thoughts toward all three jars, exactly the same each day.

Mid-month, the

Mid-month, the “love jar” appears to be fermenting still, while the water in the other two jars grows more brackish and fetid

At first, I planned to use the simple word, “Namaste,” with hands folded and a bow, just as one does after a meditation. Self discipline in short supply, apparently, I lingered longer than the single word would allow. Every day, in addition to bowing to the rice (Crazy-sounding, isn’t it?) and speaking the word, I also sent loving thoughts and gratitude, spending two to three seconds with each jar. Oh, and I smiled affectionately too. Couldn’t help that. Kindness almost automatically elicits a smile, wouldn’t you agree?

A wrinkle in time intent

Right off the bat, I struggled with the idea that my thoughts might set up a reaction that could kill the mold and bacteria in the “bad” jars. Who am I, the thought came, unbidden each day, to decide that the mold and bacteria in those jars is “wrong”or “bad”? They are, after all, living organisms. Yes, I’m that kind of person.

It took me to mid-month, to get comfortable with those thoughts, acknowledge them, much as one does in a meditation, and let them pass during my brief daily homage to the jar’s contents.

What happened to the rice and water?

Here’s how the jars appeared on February 27, near the end of the month. As you can see, this photo is nearly identical to the the two above, taken February 2 and February 13, respectively. Even the ripples around the edges retained much the same shape.

The same 3 jars of rice and water on February 27--the rice and water have a pinkish cast and are getting a little mushy on the bottom, especially the third jar on the right

The same 3 jars of rice and water on February 27–the rice and water have a pinkish cast and are getting a little mushy on the bottom, especially the third jar on the right

Surprisingly, very little water evaporated. In fact, the third jar contains more water. Could off-gassing as the rice broke down increase the water volume somehow? Why only in this jar?

Below the surface, as visible from outside the jars, the rice and water did not appear to change a whole lot either. All three developed a ring of mush at the bottom–just a little in the love jar, more in the idiot jar and nearly twice as much in the previously ignored jar. In addition, some of the rice in the jars took on a faintly pink tinge.

This slideshow, of the same three photographs, reveals just how little the three jars changed over the course of the second month.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The love jar remained basically clean. In fact, those strange waxy circles on top of the water diminished during February. The difference in coloration you see in the two photographs is due to taking them in different light. (Who is that woefully amateurish photographer anyway? Oh, right. It’s me. I’ll get better. I promise.)

(To zoom or to see the captions, click on one of the images.)

The other two jars changed a little in February, though not as much as expected. Here’s the “idiot” jar, looking down from above, at the end of January and again a month later. The waxy-looking “cells” around the edges appear to have liquefied. A pink tinge permeates the top. The rectangular, black mold clumps changed little.

Now take a look at the jar to which I paid no heed in January and, like the others, sent loving thoughts each day in February.

The moldy star-shaped pillows seem to have grown slightly thicker and appear more convoluted. The water is fetid, murkier.

What about the smell?

By the end of February, I was concerned about the odor. While not strong, it scented the air, vaguely unpleasant, each time I opened the back door. We share this common area with another apartment on this floor, as we share the rear stair well with all apartments on this side of the building. What did the neighbors think? I may never know. We’ve not met the people who share this back-door landing with us! City life.

On the last day of the month, I girded my gag-reflex loins, as it were, and in the interest of amateur science carefully removed the lids and took a whiff, one at a time. The love jar? Still not too bad. Not as pleasant now as at the end of January, and with an undertone of spoilage, it still smelled slightly sweet and vinegary. The other two jars? I nearly lost my cupcakes. Those babies had to go.

Conclusion and next steps

Clearly, my loving thoughts did nothing to cleanse the rice and water in the “bad” jars. But I couldn’t help wondering whether they may have inhibited spoilage and mold growth. Had I continued to curse and ignore, or simply let Nature takes its course, would the mold and rot have spread significantly?

What about the love jar? The contents deteriorated little in this second month as well.

Surprising outcome, don’t you think? So this month, since March 1, I have continued the love jar experiment, and added three new jars. Every day, I send the same loving thoughts to each jar–all four of them.

The original

The original “love jar” plus 3 new water and rice jars

Will sending kind thoughts to a new batch of jars produce the same results as last time? Will one, two or all three of the mixtures sprout mold or rot? Will they all stay fairly clean and untouched by bad bugs? How will the original love jar change?

What about fluctuating temperatures? The micro-climate in which these jars must sit changes daily, sometimes hourly. Temperatures can be near freezing one day and near eighty the next. Colder temps likely retard bacterial growth, preserving the rice, while warmer temps should promote fermentation and/or decay, right? And then there’s the love. We’ll see what happens.

Stay tuned for my April report on the March rice madness.

Mashed yams

Easy mashed yams in the slow cooker

If you love yams and sweet potatoes, you don’t have to wait for the holidays to make them. Take advantage of their brilliant color, sweetness and health benefits all winter long. Here at Chez Grace, we like mashed yams best. A side of these alongside a crunchy autumn salad with chunks of romaine, baby kale, lightly steamed Brussels sprouts and walnuts makes for an easy supper any day.

The good news: They’re hardly any trouble at all if you have a slow cooker and a stick blender handy. Early in the day, scrub your yams, peel them if you like, chunk them, throw them in your slow cooker, drizzle a little olive oil over them, and by lunch time, they’ll practically mash themselves.

Scrubbed yams, ready to peel and chunk

Scrubbed yams, ready to peel and chunk

Easy side dish for your holiday guests who don’t enjoy candied yams

Most of our gang loves candied yams, dripping with syrup and topped with golden-crusted marshmallows. Some of us? Not so much. Once I discovered I wasn’t the only one, I volunteered to bring the un-candied yams. They are always a hit, even with the folks who so eagerly take big helpings of that gooey alternative.

Slow cooking your yams and sweet potatoes makes your holiday planning just a little quicker and easier, especially if you have to map out your oven time and cooking space days in advance to be sure everything comes out hot and perfectly done when you all sit down to dine.

Peeled or unpeeled, just as tasty either way

Sometimes I peel them, sometimes not, but if I don’t, it takes less than 5 minutes to fill my 1-1/12 quart slow cooker with chunked yams like these. The skins give us extra fiber and, to my mind, add a little subtle, earthy flavor that jibes nicely with the sweetness.

Unpeeled yams in slow cooker crock

Unpeeled yams in slow cooker crock

Peeled yams in slow cooker crock

Peeled yams in slow cooker crock

If the skins are tough or extra pocked, I peel my yams. Either way, I toss the chunks with a little olive oil, pop them in the cooker, set it and walk away.

Use a powerful stick blender to make quick work of the mashing

You could almost mash these sweet potatoes with a fork, they come out so tender, but my Breville stick blender gets them super smooth in about one minute. Can’t beat that! (Unintended pun, but think I’ll keep it.) See my review of this blender on HubPages: The Breville Stick blender, one of my most-used kitchen tools.

Easy mashed yams in the slow cooker recipe

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 5 mins prep plus ~3 hours in the cooker
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

This dish is delicious plain, and that’s our favorite way to eat them, but I have fun tinkering too. Sometimes I add a dash of cinnamon, curry powder, or garam marsala when mashing, to give the goodies a little extra oomph. Give them a try, then tell me what you think in the comments at the end of this page.

Yams in slow cooker, temperature set to high

Yams in slow cooker, temperature set to high

My small slow cooker, the one I use for just the two of us, is old and quite basic. No fancy doo-dahs. I set the temperature to high for the first hour to assure the yams reach a safe temperature as quickly as possible. After that first hour, I turn the dial to “low,” and wait for the heat and moisture to do its magic, about two more hours in this cooker. Cooking times vary according to pots, so adjust to suit yours.

Ingredients:

  • 1 -1/2 to 2 lbs Yams or sweet potatoes, washed, peeled and chunked
  • 1/2 C cold tap water
  • 1 T Extra virgin olive oil
  • Pinch Salt (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Fill 1-1/2 quart slow-cooker with chunks, leaving just enough room for lid to rest snugly.
  2. Add ½ C cold tap water.
  3. Drizzle olive oil over top.
  4. Cover & set slow cooker to high for one hour to assure it reaches safe cooking temperature quickly, then reduce to low and cook for 2-3 hours till fork tender.
  5. Turn off crock pot and let cool just enough to handle pot safely.
  6. Pour cooked yams into large bowl.
  7. Sprinkle salt over all to taste (optional).
  8. Mash and serve plain, or garnish with a dollop of fresh butter or Greek yogurt.

For a light supper with complementary textures and color, serve with a crisp and crunchy green salad made with romaine, baby kale, lightly steamed baby Brussels sprouts and toasted walnuts tossed in a light mustard vinaigrette.

A YayYay's Kitchen Recipe

This is a YayYay’s Kitchen original recipe. Please link back to this page if you base a recipe of your own on this one.

Candied or plain?

Are you a candied yam fan? Or do you gag like I do? (It’s embarrassing, isn’t it?) What’s your favorite way to eat yams and sweet potatoes?

♥  ♥  ♥

Dear Readers: If you think you’ve seen this recipe before, you may well have. In November 2013, as a writer on the now-defunct site Squidoo, I first published this recipe under the user name graceonline. In August 2014, HubPages, where I am known as ecogranny, bought Squidoo. I opted to have my Squidoo pages, including this recipe, transferred to the new site. Now, in February 2017, I’ve brought it home–to YayYay’s Kitchen.

♥  ♥  ♥

This post is shared on Seeking Joyful Simplicity | Blog hop #42.

Fresh vegetables, olive oil, leftover ferro and almonds for a quick veggie stir-fry

How to make an eye-catching, mouth-watering stir-fry supper fast

A YayYay's Kitchen cooking & Baking 101 tutorial

Just learning to cook? A while back, I shared my 15-30 minute broccoli skillet supper for two. If you’re fairly new to the kitchen, you may wonder how anyone can get a meal from scratch to table that fast, especially one that uses whole, real foods. Today, I’ll show you how, step-by-step. We’ll be working with that recipe as an example, so if it’s helpful, keep that link open.

What? 15-30 minute meals? Am I kidding?

Nope. Not kidding. You can learn to make a taste-bud-delighting, good-for-you meal just that fast. You remember that old Carnegie Hall adage: Practice, practice, practice? Just like getting to Carnegie Hall, cooking fast takes know-how and practice. I’m here to show you a basic method you can practice each time you make a home-cooked meal. Practice until it’s second nature, a well-established skill, and you won’t have to think about it.

Broccoli with toasted onions over Bulgar wheat

Broccoli with toasted onions over Bulgar wheat

These tips are highly adaptable

In fact, we change this meal up all the time. Sometimes it’s cauliflower instead of broccoli. Sometimes it’s potatoes and kale. Use this method to make a soup or chili on a cold day. Adapt, adapt, adapt. But for starters, I’m going to show you just how we do that broccoli skillet supper recipe here at Chez Grace when we need a wholesome, delightful and fast meal.

Soaking the broccoli and tomatoes in a salt bath

Soaking the broccoli and tomatoes in a salt bath

We’ll clean the broccoli, toast the almonds, peel and chop the onions and garlic. We’ll even prepare a simple grain pilaf from scratch and add a side of complementary vegetables for nutritional balance and eye-pleasing color.

Once you see how this works, and get used to thinking one or two steps ahead, you’ll find you can make a meal quickly that has eye appeal and tastes as good as it is good for you.

Here’s how to do it.


A YayYay’s Kitchen Cooking & Baking 101 Tutorial

How to make a quick 15-30 minute veggie supper, from washing the vegetables to plating

Step by step, here’s how to make that broccoli skillet supper, complete with a foundation grain and a colorful side, in thirty minutes or less.

  1. Start with the right tools and utensils. To cook fast, you’ll need a few good tools. I use these with nearly every meal I make. Make sure your knives are sharp and the bowls, pots and utensils you need are clean and handy.

    • 5-7 quart bowl for soaking and washing veggies (stainless steel is best)
    • Colander to drain the veggies
    • Food processor with chopping blade (or sharp knife)
    • Sharp knives and large cutting board
    • Metal dough scraper
    • 10-12 inch cast iron or other heavy skillet
    • Large metal spoon and/or spatula
    • Liquid and dry measuring cups
    • Measuring spoons

    Now you’ve got your tools handy, you’re ready to go.

  2. Think like the athletes do: Map out a game plan. The trick to cooking fast is to pause, before you start, just like the athletes do, and visualize your game plan. I  usually do this in my head while I’m pulling my veggies from the fridge and pantry. I jotted this one down so you can see how informal it is, but you don’t need to write it down unless you have a lot of distractions in the kitchen, like kids popping in and out, or company chatting away.

    Quick supper game-lplan jotted on our fridge dry-erase board

    Quick supper game-plan jotted on our fridge dry-erase board

    How to do it: Think about your recipe and the ingredients, as well as the foundation grain or starch and side you’d like to serve with it. While you pull your veggies and other ingredients from the pantry and fridge, visualize how they’ll come together, then ask yourself these questions:

    • What takes the most time to prepare? (Usually the grain, unless you have leftovers to heat up.)
    • In what order do I need each ingredient?
    • What’s already prepped (see tip below) and what do I need to clean and chop?
    • What can I make ready while something else is soaking or sauteing?

    Tip: When chopping onions, bell peppers and the like for a meal–and you’re not in a raging hurry–chop extra and store them in a tightly sealed jar for a fast meal like this one. Learn more here: Quick tip for making fast meals at home.

    Once you have your tasks in order, begin with the top of the list, always thinking ahead to the next item. Ready to give it a go? On to the next step.

  3. Choose a grain or starch and get it going. Check your fridge: Leftover rice, barley, Bulgar wheat, ferro, even mashed or baked potatoes, make excellent supper foundations and re-heat quickly in a skillet or sauce pan. Got enough for supper? Set aside until Step 10.

    No leftovers? No worries. Keep Bulgar wheat on hand for fast suppers. Unlike rice, you can prepare this whole grain in less than thirty minutes, start to finish. To prepare the Bulgar wheat, soak it in warm water for 15 minutes while you ready your vegetables.

    Pour hot water over the Bulgar wheat and let soak while you prepare the veggies

    Pour hot water over the Bulgar wheat and let soak while you prepare the veggies

    How to do it: Measure out 1/2 cup Bulgar per person/serving and add about 3/4 C warm water for each 1/2 cup grain, enough to cover, plus a little more. Stir and set aside.

    Tip: Whenever you make a pot of rice or other grain for supper, make extra and store tightly covered in the fridge. Two or three nights later, when you want a wholesome meal but don’t have time to wait for the grain to cook, you’re covered.

    Can’t eat wheat? For gluten-free, fast meals, one reader suggests toasting buckwheat groats. Haven’t tried that yet, but sounds delicious.

  4. Soak your veggies in a salt bath for 5-10 minutes. Salt kills bacteria and helps any creepy crawlies lurking in your vegetables to detach themselves and float to the surface. Then all you have to do is a quick scrub on smooth veggies and a good rinse overall.

    I'll set another bowl weighted with water over the broccoli and red bell pepper so the salt bath gets into every nook and cranny

    I’ll set another bowl weighted with water over the broccoli and red bell pepper I’m using as my contrasting color vegetable tonight so the salt bath gets into every nook and cranny

    How to do it: Fill a large mixing bowl with cold water. Depending on how many vegetables you need to soak, use a five- to seven-quart bowl. Add roughly a tablespoon of salt per gallon of water, swish to dissolve and dump in the vegetables. (Buy sea salt in bulk–it’s so much cheaper.) Top it off with a second bowl, filled with water to weight it. This keeps your veggies gently submerged so the salt water can get in all the nooks and crannies.

    Tip: Learn more about why I soak my fruits and veggies in salt water when cleaning them here: How to keep fruit and veggies fresh longer, cut waste and save money.

  5. Toast the almonds and set them to cooling. Toasted nuts and seeds add flavor, nutrients, protein and eye appeal to almost any dish, turning a quick supper into a special meal.

    How to do it: Measure about a tablespoon of whole almonds or other nuts per serving. (If using sesame seeds, a generous teaspoon is plenty. Remember, they’re a garnish, so you don’t need a bunch.) Pulse your almonds or other large nuts a few times in a food processor to chop them coarsely. You can chop by hand, but it will add an extra five to ten minutes to your overall cooking time, depending on number of servings.

    Coarsely chop the almonds in the food processor

    Coarsely chop the almonds in the food processor

    Toast the nuts or seeds two to three minutes in a dry, hot skillet, preferably cast iron, turning frequently to prevent scorching. You want them golden brown, not blackened. Toasting the nuts till just slightly caramelized brings out their natural fats and flavor–sheer nutty goodness.

    Toast the nuts 2-3 minutes, till slightly caramelized, tossing frequently to prevent scorching

    Toast the nuts 2-3 minutes, till slightly caramelized, tossing frequently to prevent scorching

    Set the nuts aside to cool on a plate or bowl. By the way, they smell heavenly! I wouldn’t blame you a bit if you made extra, just so you could munch on them while you fix supper.

    Set the toasted nuts aside on a plate or bowl to cool while you prepare the rest of the dish

    Set the toasted nuts aside on a plate or bowl to cool while you prepare the rest of the dish

    Tip: To minimize mess and cleanup, toast nuts in the skillet in which you plan to saute your vegetables. That little bit of residual almond flavor in the pan just kisses your veggies, and you eliminate one pan from cleanup later.

  6. Rinse, peel, chop and saute the broccoli stems. If your broccoli is old, you’ll likely need to peel the stems before chopping.

    Chop the broccoli stems and break the florets into bite-size pieces

    Chop the broccoli stems and break the florets into bite-size pieces

    How to do it: Stand a stem  sturdily on end on your cutting board, and run a paring knife carefully down the sides to remove the tough outer skin layer. If your broccoli is quite fresh, you may be able to omit this step. Chop the stems into half-inch pieces and set aside.

    Tip: Don’t discard those trimmings. Toss them in your veggie freezer bowl and make delicious soup stock with them.

  7. Peel and chop the onion, then peel and mince the garlic. Get the onions going while you prepare the garlic, which doesn’t need more than a minute or two in the pan.

    When the onions are nearly translucent, gently stir in the minced garlic and saute until about half the onions are nicely caramelized

    When the onions are nearly translucent, gently stir in the minced garlic and saute until about half the onions are nicely caramelized

    How to do it:  Chop your onion in 1/4-1/2″ pieces. Add a teaspoon or two of oil to your skillet, heat on medium/high until a piece of onion sizzles when added to the oil, and sweat* the onions while you peel and mince the garlic. Add to the onions,  stir and saute about one minute, then add the salt and broccoli stems. Salt helps soften the more fibrous stem bits and brings out their flavor.

    Move on to the next steps, coming back to stir these every couple of minutes.

    Tip: If the vegetables stick a bit, rather than adding more oil, stir in a tablespoon or two of filtered water. Since our veggies are already lightly coated with oil, they can saute just fine in a small amount of water, saving unneeded fat calories without any loss of flavor. Plus, the water deglazes the pan, making for easier cleanup later and imparting even more flavor to the veggies.

  8. Stir the Bulgar. Take a moment to give your Bulgar wheat a quick stir. By now it will have absorbed about half the water, maybe more. Isn’t it amazing how it expands and softens?

    Check on your Bulgar wheat. By now, it should have soaked up most of the water

    Check on your Bulgar wheat–by now, it should have soaked up most of the water

  9. Trim and add the broccoli florets, along with the lemon or lime juice and a little of the remaining onion.  Here’s where the dish gets really pretty. You’re on the home stretch now.  Cook the florets and fresh onion to just crunchy-tender.

    The stems are crunchy tender, the florets bright green, and the red onion crunchy with just enough raw flavor

    The stems are crunchy tender, the florets bright green, and the red onion crunchy with just enough raw flavor

    How to do it: Separate the florets into bite-sized pieces, trimming off longer bits of stem and chopping those as needed. Add the florets, stem bits and about half of the reserved onion to the skillet. Squeeze the lemon or lime over all, careful not to let any seeds in, and stir gently, turning the heat to low. Watch the florets closely, turning heat to “warm” as soon as they are bright green and slightly tender. Do not overcook!

    Tip: If you have it, use red onion in this step for a more colorful, eye-appealing dish.

  10. Prepare your red/orange side vegetables, and make ready for plating. While the florets warm, slice the clean, drained veggies, even cook a side of carrots if that’s what’s on hand. I’m sharing three quick veggie option here. We’ve always got at least one of these vegetables on hand. We eat a lot of them! Colorful, delicious and nutritious. You? What vegetables do you keep on hand?

    How to do it:In the few minutes the florets heat through, slice your veggies. If carrots, make thin, broad cuts on the diagonal, and if you want them slightly cooked, bring a quarter cup of water to boil in a second skillet and toss in the carrots, stirring frequently. They’ll cook nearly tender, but not mushy, in just a few minutes. If they use up all the water and begin to caramelize a little, all the better. Without removing the carrots, de-glaze the pan with just a tablespoon or two of water or fresh-squeezed lemon or lime juice sprinkled over and stir.

    If using colorful bell peppers, slice in largish chunks on the diagonal for easy finger food. You can serve cherry tomatoes whole, but for a dish like this one, I like to slice them in half.

    Tip: You can slice an entire plateful of cherry tomatoes in seconds. Turn a dinner plate upside down. Place a single layer of cherry tomatoes on the flat of the plate. Top with an identical plate placed right side up over the cherries. Hold the top plate down gently but firmly while slicing through the tomatoes. (Click on the photo to view larger images and captions.)

    Voilà! An entire pint of halved cherry tomatoes in seconds. My gratitude to blogger Lee of Veggie Quest, who shared this trick and 6 other cooking hacks.

  11. Heat the soaked (or leftover) grain. When the broccoli florets are brilliantly green and just slightly tender, remove them to a warmed serving dish and use the same skillet to heat the grain.

    How to do it: Dump the leftover or soaked grain, whichever you’re using, into the skillet, along with a sprinkle of salt to taste. Here you can see a little moisture remains in the Bulgar wheat. Not to worry, it cooks off quickly. By the time it’s warmed through, you’ll find the grain tender, with a rice-like texture and a mildly nutty flavor.

    Heating the Bulgar wheat in a hot cast iron skillet takes just a couple of minutes

    Heating the Bulgar wheat in a hot cast iron skillet takes just a couple of minutes

    Now if you’re lucky enough to have leftover rice, barley or other cooked grain on hand, heat it up the same way, with just a little moisture–not fat–in the bottom of the skillet to keep it from sticking. Watch closely to prevent scorching. Grains like a little toasting, so that’s fine, but you don’t want them sticking to your pan and making cleanup difficult.

    This is where cooking becomes a bit of dance, as you move between the two pans, gracefully or, in my advancing years with a touch of arthritis in knees and hands, not so gracefully. Still, it’s a dance and rather fun.

    Tip: A skillet works better than a saucepan for this step because you can spread the grain out and heat it fast, as well as quickly cook off excess moisture.

  12. Plate the vegetables, light the candles and sit down and enjoy. To plate, dish up a half cup or so of Bulgar wheat per person, making a wide, shallow well with the back of a large spoon. Top with heaping serving spoons full of the broccoli mixture and sprinkle all with the toasted almonds and remaining fresh onion.

    Broccoli with toasted onions over Bulgar wheat

    Broccoli with toasted almonds over Bulgar wheat and slightly steamed, carrot medallions on the side

    Alongside the broccoli main event, make a crescent of colorful halved cherry tomatoes, sliced bell peppers in red, orange and yellow, or your choice of raw or steamed carrot wedges. Add a twist of freshly ground black pepper, sit down, grab a fork and go for it.

    *To sweat the onions means to cook them until they soften a bit, begin to release some of their moisture and appear to perspire.

A YayYay's Kitchen Cooking and Baking 101 Tutorial
This is a YayYay’s Kitchen Cooking and Baking 101 Tutorial / Copyright L. Kathryn Grace, all rights reserved.


Adapt this method dozens of ways

That’s it. You can adapt this method to almost any stir-fry combination, one-skillet meal, soup or casserole. I realize these steps may seem like a lot to a novice, but once you’ve got the rhythm of cooking like this, you’ll find it’s quick and easy. Remember to enjoy the dance!

Did you try it?

If you try this method and, over time, find it becomes second nature in the kitchen, do come back and share your thoughts, or even a new tip I haven’t thought of here. If you see something that needs adjusting, do please let me know that too. I’m all for collaborative learning. Are you?

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♥  ♥  ♥

Shared on:
Plant-Based Potluck Party Link Up #119
Real Food Fridays #176 – Real Food For A Healthy Easter

Rice and water experiment on the 29th day

30 days of love, hate and indifference: Rice and water experiment #1

See those three jars? They’re part of an experiment the eight-year-old granddaughter and I began on January 1 to see if mere words and actions can make a difference to water and organic matter. We’re calling it: “What’s love got to do with it?”, after the Tina Turner song, because you know, that song was about more than love. It was about bullying and other hurtful behaviors.

We got the idea from a researcher’s experiment shown in the video The Secret of Water. If you haven’t seen it, do watch it just for the amazing images of water crystals. Absolutely incredible.

Perhaps they are incredible. Like New York Times reviewer Ken Jaworowski, I am skeptical of the video’s fascinating claims. While we see several talking heads associated with various universities and research facilities, the videographers offer no links, as far as I can tell, to the researchers’ work or to any published, peer-reviewed articles.  Still, the images captivated, the assertions intrigued, and one experiment caught our attention in a big way.

One of the researchers in the film, Dr. Masaru Emoto, showed us a simple experiment he conducted with water and rice that reveals a possible connection between human emotion and its effect on water and organic substances. Inspired by his on-camera results, we decided to replicate his experiment here at home. The results astonished all of us.

Emoto’s experiment

In the video, Dr. Emoto places equal amounts of rice and water in three beakers. Each day for thirty days, he approaches the jars. To the first one, he says “Thank you.” To the second, he says, “You idiot!” To the third he offers no words, turning his back on it, ignoring it completely.

In the film, at the end of the thirty days, we see that the beaker with the rice and water Dr. Emoto thanked every day is fermenting nicely and appears to have no mold or rotting material. The second beaker, which Emoto assaulted verbally every day, is covered with black mold. The third beaker, which he ignored for thirty days, appears to have even more black crud in it. In fact, Emoto tells us the rice has actually rotted.

His conclusion: That gratitude and loving intentions affect even the most benign of substances–pure water and simple rice grains–in a positive way. Conversely, bullying and indifference create conditions that encourage mold and rot, respectively.

On New Years Day, my granddaughter and I set out to learn what would happen if we tried this experiment at home.

Our experiment

We started with three clean, identical pint canning jars from the cupboard. We did not sterilize them. To each jar, we weighed and added equal amounts of rice, then weighed and added equal amounts of water, enough to cover the rice and add a half inch above.

We set the jars on the dining room buffet. Since our granddaughter cannot visit every day, I would be the one to carry out the daily task of speaking to the rice. Knowing my schedule and myself well, I would not attempt to speak to the rice at the exact same time each day. Instead, I made a decision to speak to it once on each calendar day, no matter the time.

Day 5: Because the rice had absorbed all the water, I added exactly equal amounts to each jar

Day 5: Because the rice had absorbed all the water, I added exactly equal amounts of filtered water to each jar

By the fifth day, the rice had absorbed all the water. Dr. Emoto’s experiment showed jars with water above the rice throughout the experiment. That day, I added exactly the same quantity of filtered water to each jar, enough to raise the water level about an inch above the rice.

By the tenth day, the rice began to stink. Hoo-eee. Boy did it stink. We didn’t want to live with that for twenty more days, so I moved the rice to the unheated back stairwell in our apartment building, where a little extra fetid odor likely would go unnoticed, sitting as it did just a few landings up from the open dumpster.

The first two jars were fermenting nicely, with gassy bubbles. The rice was white and clear. The second jar had a little dark mold growing on the top. As I moved the third jar, I couldn’t help noticing that it too was fermenting but also had a pinkish tinge on top in addition to mold.

We’ve had a cold January for San Francisco. The unheated stairwell is frigid. Fermentation stopped almost immediately. The first jar appeared to remain fairly static throughout the rest of the thirty days, but the mold on the second jar continued to grow. I carefully avoided glancing at the third jar, so couldn’t say what happened to it until now.

Talking to the rice

The first week of the experiment, I found speaking to the rice difficult. Merely saying a curt “Thank you” didn’t seem to arouse enough emotion in me. I experimented with different “nice” things to say, trying to find something that felt comfortable. About a week and a half in, I began to fold my hands in the Namasté gesture, bow, say thank you and “I love you.” That last never felt “right,” but having said it a few days in a row, I decided not to go back and change yet again.

More so with the second jar, I had an extremely difficult time saying negative words and backing them with emotion. I couldn’t bring myself to use Emoto’s phrase, “You idiot!”, as it is a term I especially despise. I tried “Ugh, you’re disgusting,” but the rice wasn’t disgusting, and I hated saying it. I tried just looking at it with narrowed eyes and a wordless “rrrrrrrrrrrrrrr,” but that didn’t seem to fit either. Eventually, I gave in to “You idiot!” and found I could do it with more conviction each day. Scary thought, that.

Results

Day 30: Rice experiment shows no mold or rot on first jar, quite a lot of mold on the second and thick pillows with black stars and pink goo on the third

Day 30: Rice experiment shows no mold or rot on first jar, quite a lot of mold on the second and thick pillows with black stars and pink goo on the third

As you can see, the jar on the left, which received gratitude and love appears free of mold, although it does have what appear to be waxy puddles on top.

Day 30: The water in the

Day 30: The water in the “love” jar is mostly clear, rice grains visible and clean; thin, waxy-appearing circles float on the surface;

The second jar, which received the negative verbiage each day, developed a top layer of chunky material, some of it definitely mold. The black mold is in rectangular cubes.

Day 30: The

Day 30: The “Idiot Jar” has a layer of discolored and fractured waxy-appearing “cells” on most of the perimeter, with colonies of white, orange-brown, grey, and rectangular black mold covering three-fourths of the surface

The third jar, to which I gave neither glance nor notice throughout the experiment, with the exceptions of adding water on the fifth day and moving to the back porch several days later, developed thick, star-shaped pillows that are both moldy and infected with some kind of pink ooze.

Day 30: Thick pink and white pillows with black, star-shaped centers fill most of the surface, surrounded by cloudy, brownish liquid

Day 30: Thick pink and white pillows with black, star-shaped centers fill most of the surface, surrounded by cloudy, brownish liquid

The water in the first jar appears mostly clear. The water in the other two jars appears more fermented and vinegary in color. The rice deep in the jars appears about the same in all three, intact, mostly unchanged. None appears to be decomposing.

Day 30: Nearly clear water in first jar, dark brown with penetrating mold in second, and slightly lighter brown with slightly less penetrating mold in third; rice appears normal in all three jars;

Day 30: Nearly clear water in first jar, dark brown with penetrating mold in second, and slightly lighter brown with slightly less penetrating mold in third; rice appears normal in all three jars;

What’s next

We’re so intrigued, the granddaughter and I, that we’ve decided to conduct the experiment again, beginning March 1, when we can do thirty days in a calendar month.

During February, I’m going to carry on with this experiment, but in a new way. I’m interested in seeing if kind thoughts can change the rice and water in these jars. I’ve settled on using the peaceful Namasté, gesture and word, which I will offer to each of the three jars every morning. I’m curious–and a little hopeful–to see what happens.

I’ll keep a photo journal of the experiment, whenever I can get sufficient lighting on the landing, and share the results with you all next month.

What do you think?

We were all blown away here, at Chez Grace, to see the differences in the three jars. Is it possible, as New Agers have been saying for decades, and that poets and philosophers have said for millennia, that loving intentions can alter our world? Anyone who’s ever been bullied or had a punitive parent or teacher knows how negative words can affect us. Likewise, anyone who has spent a good deal of time in life feeling invisible knows what being ignored can do to the psyche.

Is it possible, do you think, to actually change the world, or at least our part of it, with loving intention as we go about our day? What, after all, has love got to do with it?

? ? ?

This post shared on Organic 4 Green Livings: Real food Fridays #175.

Freshly diced yellow onion

How to chop and julienne an onion safely without tears

QuickTips4csMuch as they like to help out in the kitchen, every last one of my grandchildren–except the wee babe, of course–leaves the moment I break out the onions. “Eeee-ewww!” The smell! The tears!

Well, I’ve got a tip to help with that, but safety comes first, and with it the best way I’ve found to dice or julienne an onion. I don’t have the tools to make a decent video yet. Some day! Chef Brian from Dominick’s To Go does. Here he shows us how to chop an onion quickly and safely, as well as how to make those lovely julienne crescents. I especially like his careful attention to safety tips. Take a look.

What about the tears?

About those tears. Over the years I tried lots of different methods–soaking the onions in a cold-water bath, peeling them under water, setting them in the freezer for five minutes just before cutting.

The only method that worked for me, and worked well consistently, is also the easiest: Keep my mouth shut and breathe through my nose–No talking!–while peeling and cutting the onion. Forget and open my mouth to say one word? Pain and tears!

So try that when you dice or cut onions: Breathe through your nose, keep your mouth shut, don’t say a word. If you’re especially sensitive to the juice of the onion, do as my sweetheart does and cover the bowl of diced onions with a clean kitchen towel until you’re ready to add them to your recipe.

Let me know in the comments if this method works for you as well as it has for me.

Sauteed broccoli with toasted almonds over Bulgar wheat

Quick broccoli skillet supper with toasted almonds

Got a head of pre-washed broccoli and some leftover rice or ferro in your fridge? You can slap this eye-catching, palate-pleasing broccoli skillet meal on the table in fifteen minutes. Even if you need to prep your broccoli and cook the grain, you can sit down to this nutritious, scrump-dilly-icious meal in thirty minutes. Who knew a low-fat, vegan dish could be so fast and taste so good?

It’s quick, colorful and full of vibrant vegetables and goodies that leave us here at Chez Grace satisfied and, well, a little proud of ourselves for treating our bodies to such healthy fare and our palates to the simple pleasures of fresh vegetables cooked just enough to let their flavors shine.

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You don’t necessarily have to start with broccoli, of course. Use your imagination to come up with a veggie skillet that works for you, but this dish, with its vibrant green florets, its slightly caramelized onion and garlic, and its freshly toasted almonds is always a  hit at my table.

Here’s the recipe.

Quick broccoli skillet supper with toasted almonds

We like to serve this dish over Bulgar wheat, which practically makes itself, but leftover long-grain brown rice, ferro or other cooked whole grains taste just as good. This recipe includes instructions for making a plain Bulgar pilaf.

Quick broccoli skillet supper

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 30 mins
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Toasted almonds, vibrant vegetables, and just the tiniest bit of garlic- and onion-infused oil make every bite pop with flavor, color and texture, and all ready in mere minutes.

Sauteed broccoli with toasted almonds over Bulgar wheat

Sauteed broccoli with toasted almonds over Bulgar wheat

Ingredients:

  • 1 C Bulgar wheat
  • 3/4 C filtered water, heated to near boiling
  • 3/4 C whole raw (or what passes for raw these days) almonds (can substitute 1/2 C slivered almonds)
  • 1-2 t extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small to medium yellow or red onion, or a little of both, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 large or two medium heads broccoli, washed and drained
  • 3/4 t salt, divided
  • 1 C per person cherry tomatoes, carrots or red and orange bell pepper for balance and color
  • Juice of one small lime
  • Freshly ground pepper

Directions:

  1. In shatter-proof container, pour hot water over the Bulgar wheat and set aside to soak.
  2. Meanwhile, pulse the almonds in a food processor 3-4 times, to chop coarsely. Toast over medium high heat, in a heavy skillet such as cast iron, turning frequently. Watch closely. Once the nut meats begin to toast, they can scorch easily. Drop the hot almonds into a stainless steel container and set aside to cool. Use the same skillet to cook the veggies.
  3. Slice the onion into thin crescents, about 1/4 inch wide, or if in a hurry, chop coarsely, and drop all but 2-3 tablespoons into a skillet with 1-2 teaspoons olive oil heated just enough to sizzle the onions around the edges. Saute until slightly caramelized while peeling and mincing the garlic. Add the garlic, stir, and reduce heat to medium. Saute till just sweated.

    The stems are crunchy tender, the florets bright green, and the red onion crunchy with just enough raw flavor

    Sauteing broccoli with red onion

  4. While the onion and garlic cook, peel, if needed, and chop the broccoli stems into bite-size pieces. Add the chopped stems immediately to the onions, along with 1/2 teaspoon salt, and stir. If sticking a bit, and to avoid adding excess oil, add a tablespoon or two of filtered water and continue sauteing. Once you have infused the oil with the flavor of the onions and garlic, small amounts of water de-glaze the pan and help to prevent sticking without adding fatty calories.
  5. Cook the broccoli stems until crunchy-tender, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, break the broccoli florets into bite-sized pieces and prepare the red/orange vegetables. Slice cherry tomatoes in half, if using; or slice carrots thinly on the diagonal for quick steaming or eating raw; or slice bell peppers into fat finger wedges. Set aside.
  6. When the broccoli stems are crunchy-tender, add the florets to the skillet, sprinkle the lime juice over all and stir to mix. Cook just enough to soften the florets and bring up that bright green color we love so much.
  7. Meanwhile, in a separate skillet, pour the now-softened and expanded Bulgar wheat, sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt, stir and heat through, about 2-3 minutes, cooking off any excess moisture. If cooking carrots, add thinly sliced wedges or medallions to a second hot skillet and saute in a tablespoon or so of water till crunchy tender, 2-3 minutes.

Plate, spooning the broccoli mixture over a nest of steaming Bulgar wheat. Grind fresh pepper over all and garnish with the toasted almonds. Add your red/orange vegetables in a pretty crescent or mound on the edge of the plate and serve immediately. Voilà! Supper’s ready.
A YayYay's Kitchen Recipe

This is a YayYay’s Kitchen original recipe. Please link back to this page if you base a recipe of your own on this one.

Why Bulgar wheat? Because it’s totally no fuss and super easy

As I mentioned above, you can use left over rice, ferro or another grain as the foundation for this dish. If you don’t have leftovers, Bulgar wheat makes for quick suppers, because it comes already parboiled. All you need do is soak it in hot water for 20 minutes or so. Quite often, here at Chez Grace, we’ll dish the soaked Bulgar up without heating and let the vegetables warm it through, but if I have a couple of extra minutes, I’ll warm it too, as I did with this recipe.

Love broccoli? Or hate it?

Of course, as I write this, I’m reminded of one of our past presidents who said his mother made him eat broccoli and, now that he was president he could do what he wanted and that meant he wasn’t going to eat it any more because, by golly, he was the president! Not me, Man! We love the bright green stuff when it’s in season and fresh. Do you? Weigh in with this little poll, then share your thoughts about this vibrant cruciferous vegetable, this recipe or one of your own favorite quick night suppers.

Coming soon! For novice cooks, who think a fast home cooked meal means microwaving a frozen dinner, watch for a photo tutorial in the next few days that will show you just how easy it is to pull together a quick, delicious, and vitamin-powered supper like this in thirty minutes or less.

♥ ♥ ♥

This post is shared on the following linkups:
Plant-based potluck party linkup #102
Real Food Fridays #157
The Homesteader Blog Hop #46

It takes only minutes to make a cup of coconut butter in the food processor

Making coconut butter and finding hope in a sharing world

QuickTips4cs

One of my favorite YayYay’s Kitchen Facebook page Recipes of the Day is Andrea’s totally scrumptious script for Cranberry Almond Snack Bars on Cooking with a Wallflower. I made them, and they were delightful! Andrea’s recipe calls for a tablespoon of coconut butter, which I do not buy or keep on hand, so at first, I thought I might have to sub in butter.

Thankfully, a guy named Mark shared 10 Tips for Making Coconut Butter on his site Mark’s Daily Apple. Following Mark’s advice that day, in less than thirty minutes I had a beautiful cup of coconut butter, ready to dip into for my almond bars.

Here’s how it works

Start with about four cups of dried coconut flakes. I use organic, pre-shaved coconut as I haven’t had the courage to buy a raw coconut and hack it to pieces yet.

The organic coconut flakes I use to make my coconut butter

The organic coconut flakes I use to make my coconut butter

Just as Mark shows on his site, pile those flakes on top of the chopping blade in your food processor, or put them in a blender, and let it whirl. That’s all there is to it!

In no time at all, my food processor turned those crumbly, dry flakes into a creamy, thin, smooth butter. Overall time, less than ten minutes with my food processor! I poured the butter into a small Le Parfait jar for safe keeping, dipping out one tablespoon for my cranberry bars right away.

Freshly made coconut butter has a thin, somewhat liquid consistency

Freshly made coconut butter has a thin, somewhat liquid consistency

As you can see here, the butter came out rather thin, as expected, but after a few hours sitting on the counter top at room temperature, it solidified into a nice buttery consistency.  Guess what? My sweetheart loves the stuff! Me, not so much as a condiment, but I’m happy to use it in recipes. Incredibly easy to make.

So why did I mention a sharing world in my title up there? Because I’m passing along what I learned from someone else, and that thing–that fact that we can learn from one another and share tons of information with people we’ve never met, never even heard of before–gives me hope for a better world–a world where peace and harmony are the norm. We can do this!