Quick and Simple

by Joan Greenblatt

“In everything one does it is possible to foster and maintain a state of being which reflects our true destiny.
When this possibility is actualized, the ordinary day is no longer ordinary.
It can even become an adventure of the spirit.”

— Karlfried Graf von Dürckheim

onion_origI love the phrase “adventure of the spirit”—it can be as simple as peeling an onion and wiping the tears from one’s eyes. Since we have to eat to live and most of us have to cook to eat, we often have ample opportunity in the kitchen to be in the awareness that each moment brings. It is a simple act, but it can be as rewarding as we care to make it.

We often find ourselves with little time to prepare a meal. Through the years, as necessity has presented itself, I have developed a number of quick and simple recipes that are truly sustaining. Quick and simple doesn’t mean mindless. They are simple preparations which free us to carry on with other obligations.

Couscous is a North African food that is made of soft, refined durum wheat that has been steamed, cracked and dried. When combined with vegetables, this festive dish is easy to prepare and needs very little cooking. It has a fluffy, whole grain, nutty flavor.

Pressure cooked vegetable soup can be as quick as cutting up whatever vegetables are left in the refrigerator, adding a soup base, and some herbs.

Simplifying life holds great rewards, even if it is one small act, one day at a time.

Couscous and Vegetables
I don’t think I’ll ever forget the first time I discovered couscous. Some friends dropped in unexpectedly and made a version of this recipe with some couscous that had traveled the world in their backpack. By the time the tiny vegetables were stir-fried, it seemed the dish was done.

1 T olive oil
1 T margarine or butter
1 bay leaf
1 onion, chopped small
1 green or red pepper, chopped small
2-3 small cloves of garlic, minced
1 t ginger, freshly grated
½ C cashews or pine nuts
1 carrot, shredded
1 zucchini, shredded
1 t salt
½ t cumin powder
turmeric, pinch
cayenne pepper, pinch
2 C couscous

1. Fry the onion, pepper, garlic, ginger and nuts in the oil and margarine mixture until done.
2. Stir in the shredded carrot and zucchini. With a lid on, let the vegetables cook on a medium heat until done. This takes very little time. Stir twice.
3. Stir in the couscous, salt, cumin, turmeric and cayenne and lower the heat on the stove to the lowest possible setting.
4. Pour 1½ C of boiling water slowly into the pan while stirring at the same time.
5. Cover and cook for 7 minutes. Let sit in the pan another 10 minutes before taking the lid off and stirring lightly.

Five-Minute No-Pressure Cooker Soup
A pressure cooker works best for this recipe, but it can also be cooked in a heavy Dutch oven pot as well. Obviously, the main difference is the cooking time, which increases from five minutes to forty minutes.

1 T olive oil
1 t salt or Braggs Amino’s to taste
1 onion, chopped
dash of cayenne pepper
2 bay leaves
Fresh herbs
5 C mixed vegetables, chopped in large chunks
½ C tomato sauce or 2T tomato paste
½ C pasta or gluten-free pasta (optional)

1. Add the oil and onions to a pressure cooker and fry until translucent.
2. Add cayenne pepper and any fresh or dried herbs you have on hand (fresh dill or parsley, and dried thyme work very nicely.)
3. Add the salt and any vegetables that you have available to the pressure cooker. (Soup standards: garlic, carrot, celery, broccoli stems are great for soup, peel the outer tough skin first, zucchini, parsnip, cabbage, potato, and the list goes on.)
4. Cover the vegetables with at least 3 inches of water or vegetable broth. If you are using water, add 1 or 2 soup-base bouillon cubes. Add the tomato sauce.
5. Adjust pressure in your pressure cooker according to the particular unit. When it has stabilized, cook for 5 minutes. Let the pot cool down before opening.

Optional: After opening the pressure cooker, bring the soup to a boil once again and add any pasta you have on hand. Cook until done.