Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Instant Pot Matzo Ball Soup

These large, fluffy vegetarian matzo balls are 
made in an Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker.

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With Passover approaching, here's an easy way to make matzo ball soup in your Instant Pot. One of the secrets of making great matzo balls is to never uncover the pot while they are cooking. Well, there's no chance of that happening while they are locked in a pressure cooker! 

For this recipe, I'm using Manischewitz Matzo Meal, not a matzo ball mix.

Matzo Ball Soup
[makes 8 matzo balls/4 servings]

Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker

For the Matzo Balls
1/2 cup Manischewitz Matzo Meal
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons dried parsley
2 eggs from happy chickens
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons water
For the Soup
8 cups water
2 stalks celery, small diced or thinly sliced
1 cup small diced onion
2 carrots, sliced
1/4 cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
1 Rapunzel vegetarian boullion cube
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt to taste

Make the matzo balls. In a small bowl, mix the matzo meal, baking powder, salt, garlic powder, pepper, and dried parsley. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, slightly beat the eggs and then mix in the olive oil and matzo meal mixture and then two tablespoons of water. Blend until the mixture is uniform. Cover and place in the refrigerator until the mixture firms up, about 20 to 30 minutes.  

In the meantime, add the soup ingredients to your instant pot. Using the “Sauté” button, bring the broth to a brisk boil. Stir well.

Soup ingredients

Remove the matzo ball mixture from the refrigerator. With moistened hands, form the mixture into 8 (1-inch) matzo balls. Turn the Instant Pot off (it will continue to boil), and drop the matzo balls into the pot. Do not stir.

Immediately secure the lid, making sure the top vent is closed. Press the “Manual” button and set for 15 minutes at high pressure. When done, quickly release the pressure and remove the lid carefully with the steam venting towards the back.

I was surprised to see how big these turned out!

Serve immediately.

Per serving (2 matzo balls plus soup):  185 calories, 10 g total fat, 2 g saturated fat, 71 mg omega-3 and 973 mg omega-6 fatty acids*, 140 mg cholesterol, 5 g protein, 20 g carbohydrates, 2 g dietary fiber, and 721 mg salt (not counting salt to taste.)

* Fatty acids do not include contribution from the matzo meal since that information is not listed by the manufacturer. To increase the beneficial omega-3 content, use omega-3 eggs.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

One Week Unplugged At Rancho La Puerta

Can you unplug for a week? It's not easy.

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Just What the Doctor Ordered
A few months ago my son Vaughn suggested that we do a little mother-son bonding at a in spa where we could get some rest and relaxation. He found a beautiful 3,000 acre property in Tecate, Mexico called Rancho La Puerta

Vaughn had been working furiously at his job for a while and really needed some time away. I had been recovering from pneumonia and working hard on 10 different projects and badly needed to disconnect. My husband Doug needed a break too and joined us mid-week. This was the perfect place for us to enjoy each other while resetting our busy lives.

Night Night Little iPhone
The first thing they hand you is a little sleeping bag for your cell phone. There are no TV's in the rooms. On the entire 3,000 acres, there are only a few places to get a WIFI signal and a newspaper but they are not well advertised. So we were totally disconnected!

This was a welcomed break for me as I've become a news junkie. I start every day reading two newspapers cover to cover and then have the radio or TV with some news show on in the background while I do my work. I watch news shows while I workout on my exercise equipment. By the end of the day, I'm totally aggravated and often in a negative state of mind, depending on how crazy a news day it was. I know this isn't healthy but it is hard to disconnect, especially with all the things happening in the world right now.

The grounds were filled with cactus and other native plants.
Sculptures were woven throughout the landscape.

One Week Unplugged
It's amazing how many positive things you can do when you aren't on your computer or phone or reading about or watching  the news. Rancho la Puerta offered a large selection of hikes, classes, and lectures every hour so we got to do lots of new things and hopefully we can continue to do some of these now that we have returned home.

Signs throughout the campus help
guide us to our next class or activity.

My Take-aways from the Ranch
Here are some take-aways that I got from the ranch that I want to share because many of these things can be done without going to a spa. 

#1 - Learn Something New
Probably the most fun part of this week was being exposed to all kinds of new things and getting reintroduced to others.
Vaughn took Cardio Kickboxing and Pilates. 
Both Doug and Vaughn joined me for some dance classes, like Zumba and Hot Latin Cardio.
Doug was also introduced to Pilates and Postural Therapy. 
Doug and I played Pickle Ball for the first time and are now completely addicted to the game!
I took a number of Feldenkrais classes which I've been wanting to do for some time.

Me and my son Vaughn (right) with our
Hot Latin Cardio Teacher, Manuel (center)

#2 - Sound Heals
This past week I was made aware of how sound effects our health and moods.
I listened to Gary Malkin talk about the power of Music and how some music can heal, deepen and enrich our lives while other music might have more negative effects. 

I also took a class on Sound Healing where they use the tones of quartz crystal singing bowls for healing and meditation.
Besides music and crystal bowls, I enjoyed the sound of the many water fountains throughout the campus. 

Crystal glass singing bowls used in sound healing.

#3 - Mindfulness
Perhaps the best experience I had this week was what I learned from the monk, Thich Phap Hai. I not only learned about mindfulness from the classes he taught, but I also learned something about stereotyping people.

I met this tall Australian on the bus on the way to the ranch. Head shaved and sporting a long brown robe and a fairly expressionless face, I couldn't imagine striking up a conversation with him. I knew he was one of the speakers but was a bit skeptical about taking a class from him. I cannot sit still so I've never taken a liking to meditation, so when Vaughn dragged me to the monk's lecture, I warned him that I would bolt if turned into a meditation. But the talk was incredibly interesting. The monk had an amazing sense of humor. He made me see things in a different light. I wanted to know more about Buddha and his teachings. He reminded me how important it is to be present - to truly experience each moment. 

The next day I attended another one of his classes. I was a bit concerned about going to a mindfulness class wearing my Nasty Women tee shirt but the monk made a point of walking up to me to tell me that he was a follower of the Nasty Buddhist Women Facebook page. At this point I decided that this guy is the coolest dude I've ever met! So the lesson here for me was that my first impression of seeing a monk in a long robe, someone so different from me,  someone that made me feel a bit uncomfortable, turned into a person whom I admired, respected, and grew to like a whole lot. There's an obvious lesson to be learned here.

#4 - Nature
Most of the hikes at the ranch started at 6:15 in the morning. Vaughn and Doug enjoyed these early hikes so much that by the end of the week, I willed myself to get up and go on a shorter hike that started at 7:00. Had I known how incredible this experience would be, I would have gone sooner and more often. 

But hiking, especially in Northern California, is easy to do and now I'm inspired to get out there and enjoy the air, the stillness, the wild life, and the mountains. 

Morning hike in Tecate, Mexico.

#5 - Feed our Body, Feed our Soul
The food at the ranch was all local, organic, mostly vegetarian food with a sprinkling of seafood throughout the week. This healthy diet was life changing for some of the visitors at the ranch but to us, it was how we eat every day. Even so, it was great not having to worry about going on vacation and then going on a diet when returning home. One thing they did at every lunch and dinner was to start the meal with a small, mostly blended soup. This is a great way to get lots of veggies in your diet and curb your appetite. I must remember to do that every day.

The dining hall had indoor and outdoor seating.

They had two nutrition speakers last week. One was Dr. Victoria Maizes who is the executive director of the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. I've heard her speak before at Andrew Weil's annual Nutrition Conferences that I've reported on in this blog. The other speaker was Dr. Joel Fuhrman, author of Eat to Live and creator of the Nutritarian Diet.

Dr. Maizes was pretty chill and nonjudgmental. She believes, like I do, that one diet does not fit all. Dr. Fuhrman, on the other hand, pretty much dictated that everyone should eat his diet with the guarantee that you would never suffer a major disease. And if you did get sick, it wasn't because of his diet, it was because of some underlying issue that needs to be addressed. I'm paraphrasing of course, but I will say most of the crowd was pretty put off by his rigid message. Food is meant to be part of a daily celebration, to be shared, to be enjoyed. Yes, it should be healthy, packed with nutrients and free of toxins, as Dr. Furhman prescribes, but if you only view food as fuel and criticize others for not following as rigid a diet as you do, well, that's not healthy either. 

Lunch of roasted vegetable salad with turnips, sweet potatoes, new potatoes, eggplant, corn, zucchini, curried garbanzos, broccoli, mushrooms, and caramelized pecans.

#6 - Self Care
Last but not least, I was reminded to take the time to get a massage. Sometimes a year or more will go by and I'll forget to get one. Massages are not just for pampering - they are incredibly important for mobility, lymph drainage and release of toxins, stress reduction and more. Again, this is something I can do at home and for a lot less money than what they charge at a spa. Must remember to schedule a monthly massage!

Take the Challenge!
Try disconnecting for a week. Too tough? Start with a day. Put your phone aside. Only check your email once or twice a day. Don't look at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. Take all that time you would have wasted on social media and take a walk, sign up for a class, cook a new healthy recipe, book a massage, play some healing music instead of listening to the news, write in your journal (or start one), read a book, meditate or do yoga. My goal is to do "mindful social media". I'm not isolating myself from the world but I'm drastically reducing its hold on me. Let's hope it lasts.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to find a pickle ball court!