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Asheville is surrounded by the beautiful Smoky Mountains. Everywhere you look are gentle, round mountains and in late October the colors are warm, vibrant and delicious. Even the trees in town are beautiful.

When I visit a new place I like to get a feel of what it is like to live there. I am not so into being a tourist, although I did some touristy things. I am interested in the food stores, the farming, the organic restaurants even the yoga classes. Here are some stores I visited last week.

Greenlife Grocery (where they now bake organic bagels) has a delicious hot bar, and is well-stocked particularly with local products and produce. I bought a jar of local sauerkraut- totally delicious, made by Viable Cultures who also manufacture kombucha and tempeh. EarthFare is another large store with all imaginable products. Their conscious philosphy is inspiring:

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I want to mention The French Broad Food Coop which has been around for almost 35 years, having started as a group of families buying cooperatively and now a busy and large store. “The French Broad Food Co-op is a store owned by the people who shop here, and we work hard to satisfy your shopping needs in a courteous and conscientious way. Shares are fully refundable.” You can also subscribe to a discounted group health insurance program.

Last but most exciting to me are the Farmer’s and Tailgate Markets which you can access at over 25 locations from early spring until late fall.

The Asheville area has much to offer for the health conscious person. Next post: where to stay!

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I’ve been away at Kripalu for the weekend. For the first time probably ever, in all the 20 some-odd years that I’ve been going up there for R&R or a workshop, the food was fabulous! Great variety and flavors, desserts that were gluten free, macro bar, everything organic. And now, I’m home, I want someone to cook for me! I am not really in the mood to cook, but I will.

Here is the fast and easy dinner (30 minutes) I prepared for my family tonight with whatever was in the ‘fridge:

Polenta with seaweed, sauerkraut and pesto, tempeh and veggies, and steamed kale

Start with the tempeh, since it takes longest to cook.

Slice one package of tempeh into triangles- cut the triangles, then stand them on the side and carefully cut in half, to make thin triangles. Place in oiled pressure cooker, sprinkle with 2 teaspoons or so of wheat free, low sodium tamari soy sauce, add 1-inch filtered water, bring up to pressure and cook 15 minutes, bring down pressure, layer 1/2 inch slices of celery and butter cup squash (any veggies will do) and cook 5 more minutes, or until squash is cooked.

For the polenta: 3 cups boiling water, add in 1 tablespoon crushed dried wakame, pinch of sea salt, 1 cup polenta (corn meal, corn flour). Turn the flame down, add the polenta slowly to the water stirring all the while, and be very careful because  it becomes thick and bubbles and can pop up. You can stir in a tablespoon of olive oil at this point or skip it. I skipped it tonight. Stir on low to medium heat until it thickens. When it pulls away from the sides it is about done. You can serve it from the pot or press it into an oiled pie plate and then slice. To serve, cut a wedge and then place a dollop of pesto on the top, and then a tangle of yummy raw, fermented sauerkraut.

I have a favorite brand of  organic Argentinian polenta flour called de la Estancia. It cooks in a minute, it is not pre-cooked- it is higher is protein and lower in starch than most corn because if where it is grown and it can be milled to a very fine consistency. 

The steamed kale is easy and fast, too. Wash the leaves in a bowl of water, then strip off the greens from the stem, tear or cut into smaller pieces and place into pan with about 1 inch boiling water. Cover for a few minutes and check to see if done. You are looking for the bright, vibrant green. Taste- is it too chewy? let cook a minute more. You do not want to leave the room when cooking greens. Stay present to the amazing process of transformation!

I know this blog took longer to write than it did for me to cook dinner. What was I whining about again?