Hearty Italian Vegetable Stew

The Finished Stew
The Finished Stew

InstantPot Pressure Cooker
Vegan, Vegetarian, Low Fat, Protein Packed

Hearty and delicious.  Pair with a warm cornbread or salty tortilla chips!


Stage 1
1T water
6 garlic bulbs chopped
1 onion peeled and chopped
5 celery stalks chopped (tops included)
Stage 2
64oz of vegetable broth
1T parsley
1t thyme
1t oregano
1t sweet did basil
1t crushed red pepper (double if you want this super spicy)
Stage 3
3 carrots chopped
3 yellow potatoes with skins on, diced to bite size

1 small can/cup Great Northern beans
4 giant Lacinato kale leaves, sliced to small strips
3 cups of broccoli florets (bite size)
1 cup of frozen sweet corn


IMPORTANT: Prepare ALL of your ingredients before you begin.

Press ON Saute Mode, add Stage 1 ingredients.
Toss around to get water spread evenly.

Turn Saute Mode OFF.

Add Stage 2 ingredients.  Stir to combine everything.

Add Stage 3 ingredients continuing to stir.

Turn ON Manual Mode, set to HIGH PRESSURE and 10 minutes.

Be sure the release valve is CLOSED.

InstantPot turns on by itself with beeps.  The pressure will build up.  Once it does the “10 minutes” begins.  It will beep when the 10 minutes is up (just enough time to clean up my kitchen, floors swept and mopped or dishwasher unloaded).

You could even use this time to bake HOME MADE CORN BREAD!  See that recipe here.

You can manually release the pressure (USE AN OVEN MIT – IT IS EXTREMELY HOT).  I normally lay a hot pad or towel loosely over the release valve so the steam doesn’t hit the ceiling (which it will).  Let the steam go until the valve pin next to it drops.  You cannot open the lid until that pin drops.

Open and stir.


PDF OF RECIPE:  hearty-italian-vegetable-stew-pages


Better The Devil You Know: The Squirrel War (Chapter 3)


To the Cult Leaders, we were bothersome attic rats.  After months passed, the weather improved and we were allowed to play on the mansion grounds.  Attic Rat became Alley Rat.  We were stinky, dirty and always barefoot – but we were outside!  Always hungry, but much more tolerable having fresh air.

At home the months slowly ticked by.   

My mother was progressing up the Chart of Awareness getting written certifications and praise along the way but she was also expected to damage the Mereta Group. Damage that could not be undone: disband them from existence.  My frail and completely wimpy mom who wouldn’t hurt a flea.

The Mereta Group  was successfully recruiting our town’s wealthiest men and their families.  Their leader, a woman named Bette Jagers, had once been a member of our cult and jettisoned out to create her own group after a past-life indoctrination therapy session.  Law suits had been filed and it was war.  She was accused of stealing our cult’s teachings and, according to our Cult Leaders, she was guilty.  Lawyers were hired to send intimidating “cease and desist” letters mostly just to bully without intending to follow through.

We were a much larger Order with missions spread throughout the United States and Europe.  The Mereta Group was just a seedling in our town, along with any other “splinter groups”,  had to be completely eliminated by order of our Cult Founder.  Any group trying to help mankind, other than ours, was labeled a Squirrel Group.

My sister and I, along with Melissa and Sarah the daughters of a fellow cult couple, were used for demonstrations and media attention when we picketed or protested any Squirrel Groups.

friendly-resturantMeetings with executive Cult Leaders over coffee at Friendly’s always included details about the enemies .  Mom had remained friends with Bette and was feeding intel back to her Handler who, in turn,  reported up the lines to the Continental Liason Offices in New York.

The day was chosen and my sister and I were the unassuming spies to get into the Merata Group’s church so the work could be done.  No one would suspect us and mom would keep them distracted.

We drove the freezing cold dingy dark cloudy day as she gave us our instructions.  We were planting papers.  I was completely confused and told her so.  “This is going to finish my part.” she said with tears rolling down her cheeks and her eyes red and swollen.

I was wide-eyed and more scared than ever now.  Why was she crying?  What part?  Were we going to hurt people?  I loved Bette and her family because they opened their homes and hearts to my sister and I.  They had wealth I’d never seen before and they shared it with us.  We ate out of the dumpsters for God’s sake!

What could I do?

She was serving us up on a platter so she could be accepted.

We arrived and mom turned off the car.  I stared out the window as rain drops hit the glass and slid down making the Christmas light display blurry.  

on-the-road-in-the-gremlinThe cold began to quickly seep into the cab.  Mom turned to us buckled into the back seat and hesitated.  “Are you ok?” She asked and her breath was visible.  I looked back at her confused then at my sister who was bundled up more than me. I didn’t answer but thought, “OK? OK for what?”.  I stared at her and kept my mouth shut.

In the passenger seat were more legal size folders.  They looked just like those I’d seen in the attic a hundred times and filled about an inch deep.  A green stripe on the top corner and spine with the word CLEAR stood out boldly.  “Put this in your jacket and don’t let it fall.” She directed me with a crystal clear low voice.  I unzipped my puffy coat and placed the folder against my chest.  It cut into my neck as I zipped the coat back up.   Mom hunted around on the floor beneath our feet and found a scarf tossing it at me.  I put it around my neck covering the papers that were so obvious.  

“It’s time.  Let’s go.” She said as she opened her door.  Rain sprinkled on her and she looked up letting it cover her face and soak her hair.  She turned around to reach back and lift the seat forward so we could get out.  I held the folder in place with one hand and used the other to grab the handle and lift out then stepped away giving her room to get my sister.  

Together, the three of us turned toward the welcoming entrance surrounded by twinkling strands of Christmas lights and pots filled with red poinsettia.  We scooted up the narrow path to the grand covered front porch.

I caught my mother glancing back at the car, considering her alternatives and hesitating.

The giant front door swung open and like a backdraft, the most delicious smelling food wafted into my face.  Bill, Betty’s husband, stood with a welcoming smile and open arms for hugs.  I froze in place worried my folder would slip from my coat.

My mom stepped in first, tugging on my coat to follow.  I shoved past my sister to beat her in practically knocking her down.  

“I’ll take your coats.  Come in and warm up!” Bill said genuinely concerned as he stared at our appearance which might have resembled wet cold cats.

Bill and Bette had two sons.  Both were much older than me.  Their portraits hung over the fireplace and my only interaction was seeing them leave.  Today they were there and invited us to the basement class room area to play ping pong which I accepted with relief.  I would leave my folder there and hope for the best.


Extras!  As I uncover gems from my mother’s belongings I will post them beneath a chapter.  Some may not be relevant to the portion of the story…but they sure are interesting to see.  For me, they are triggering memories.

This is the actual $2 Dollar Bill given to my mother by Mereta and Bill Strandwitz I found in my mother’s belongings.


Review: Five Sisters Coffee


For the last 12 years I have been completely SPOILED by my husband beyond what any wife deserves.  “It’s the little things.” really rings true.  My husband wakes me up for work AT 4:11AM by setting a hot cup of coffee on my nightstand.  I know.  You just judged me as a spoiled brat didn’t you!?  Hold that thought: we give things like this to each other.  I iron his 45 cotton hankies into small squares.  Plus, we just love making each other happy. 

The morning sipping time will often include a review of the coffee. 

We buy bulk from Costco, get used to order Peets, we bought direct from Starbucks and we’ve been given gifts. Most every single try has had a burnt taste which we both don’t enjoy.


Finally, after trying coffee blends, I have discovered the perfect coffee for my tastes.


five-sisters-blend-coffeeMedium roast, no bitter aftertaste, smooth flavor.

I add 1 tablespoon of coconut coffee creamer (#1 choice Trader Joe’s Coconut Creamer or So Delicious Coconut Milk Creamer) to my 8 ounce cup.

This coffee is smooth enough to not NEED any creamer!

ALSO as a bonus:


They work with a Cooperative (Co-Op) to ensure the farmers actually GET PAID.

You can buy direct from the Cooperative. See that here.


Check in your local health food store, ask for it or check online. 

I know I saw it at Farm Fresh To You’s website.  You can Google Search for it too.

Happy sipping!


Better The Devil You Know: I’m Starving (Chapter 2)

My story continues…

If you would like to read Part 1 of Chapter 1 go here.

Note:  Right now I am digging through all of my mother’s photos of this period of time. She was an avid photographer and I’m looking for the best possible photos that will better accompany my story.  Interestingly, she is rarely IN a photo – most of her art was capturing other’s life events.  I posted a photo of her on my About Me page if you are curious.

Request:  If you are reading this on my Word Press site http://www.SaritaShoemaker.com (look at the URL) I would really appreciate comments.  Especially questions.

Chapter 1, Part 2

Better The Devil You Know:  I’m Starving

The Cult staffers came and went from the attic once in a while. The ancient door’s knob was replaced by a giant screwdriver and duct tape.  It was never open and I assumed it was a large closet.  I jostled the screwdriver quietly and pushed.

I crouched to adjust my eyes to the dim slice of light that fell across the floor. It was  a small room stacked from the floor to ceiling with legal size manilla folders packed with white tattered paper between 1 and 2 inches fat.
There seemed to be a organized system to the folders with names and numbers progressing upward.  I had never seen so many of these folders in one place.  This was where I discovered a narrow door that lead to a darkened unused staircase.

staircase-oil-paintingEvery wooden step creaked as I tip toed downward.  This was a servants route and not well kept.  The only light came from two windows the size of dinner plates  high above my head.  The dark green paint was peeling and two landings were missing floorboards.  I stayed on the inside edge hugging the banister tightly.

Making it down to the second story I heard voices through the walls.  I was now passing the sacred private session rooms and a strict Code of Absolute Silence was enforced.  You could hear a pin drop and I held my breath as a step creaked loudly.  I waited and counted to 60 all the while expecting a door to swing open.  I could hear my stomach growl loudly prodding me onward.

I heard a conversation and stopped again.

A man with a deep voice I recognized was talking.  I squeezed my eyes shut to hear better.  It was a Session.  Completely secret interviews between a Cult Auditor and a Public person.  Everything said would be written down verbatim and placed in those legal size folders that were stacked in the attic.  You were not allowed to touch your own folder and absolutely forbidden from looking inside of it.  

“Go to that incident and tell me what you see”, commanded the deep voice.
“I can’t see much.  Just a river and a my gun.  It’s hot and I’m not feeling very good” a new voice replied.  I couldn’t tell if it was a man or woman.  
“OK.  Go to that incident and tell me what you see” Deep Voice repeated.
“I told you, I don’t feel very good.”
“I understand.  Go to that incident and tell me what you see” Deep Voice calmly repeated.
“I’m serious, I don’t feel good.  I want to stop.  I need to go.” This time I could tell it was a woman and she was anxious.
“OK, I got that.  We can stop soon enough. Now, about that incident near a river, go to that incident and tell me what you see.”

I decided I didn’t care what happened at the river, so I continued down to the first floor and into the giant kitchen which was only half of my escape plan.

This was a Member’s Only space, off limits if you were not a full fledged employee of The Cult.  There was the refrigerator that always had food in it, unlike ours.

The floor was checkered black and white linoleum tiles.  There were missing portions that exposed the weathered floorboards and nail holes.  The west side had two giant double-pane windows.  One was painted shut with a green clay colored sheet nailed at the top as a make-shift curtain and the other required Herculean strength to open and a broken off broom handle keep it that way.

Again, my stomach growled reminding me of my plan to grab a bite to eat.

gas-fridge-btdyk-c1-2The refrigerator knocked, pinged then hummed as I approached it.   I pulled the Vegas slot machine handle down very slowly to be as quiet as possible waiting for the click.  The pressure changed and the light popped on.  I peered in the crack and my heart sank when I saw it was empty except for a giant lightbulb in the back.  Dang it.  I’m so hungry!

I carefully closed the door and it clicked shut.  

Next to the refrigerator was the porcelain sink and a long counter with shelves above it, all of them missing the doors.  A few plates and bowls sat on the bottom shelf directly above the coffee maker and half filled pot.  I noticed the red Foldger’s can and sign taped on it that someone scrawled “Coffee 25 cents per cup, NO IOUs”.    

I formulated my new plan and headed to the coffee tin.  The plastic top had an opening cut in it that a quarter would easily pass through.  I tugged on it slightly to see if it would give.  It did and I peeled it back.  I didn’t want to move the can for fear of making a sound so I lifted myself up on the counter edge with both arms and peered in.  I could see the bottom of the can past the nickels and pennies.  Not one quarter.  I bit my lip and reached in carefully for the change.  

Onward, to find food elsewhere.

It was dusk and I could see and hear lights and cars passing in the distance out the open window.  I stuck my head and right leg over the waist high sill bumping the stick and immediately the window began to drop onto my shoulders. I was awkwardly straddling.  It was heavier than I thought.  I could change my mind and turn around or I could push with all of my might and wedge the handle back in.  I chose the latter then jumped the four feet into the bushes and spider webs, crouched down and scoped out my next route. The window stayed open and I planned to return on my same path.

The grounds around the mansion could be a set for a horror movie.  A massive dry fountain surrounded by dirt, fallen leaves and dead grass, enormous overgrown trees,  12 foot high hedges, bougainvillea growing out of control across windows and entryways.   Thorny bushes creeped all along the ground floor seeping into the four sunken basement entries.  
This was a problem because I was barefoot.

With thorns between my toes and in my right heel I dashed across the 100 yards of lawn to the road where I could hear traffic. Straight ahead I could see a corner store just beyond an abandoned parking lot.    It was getting dark fast.  The lights of the corner store were on.  I committed to my cult-law breaking escape and squeezed through the towering hedges on my stomach.

I was very hungry and I had 5 nickels and 2 pennies in my fist. I felt rich.

Dodging cars I raced across the road to the smokey dirty entryway.  I pulled with all my might to open the beat up cracked glass door. The overhead bell jingled in a broken melody.

I made it.  My first visit to 21st Street Market.  Despite the small size of the building there were aisles crammed with food.  I had to make some big decisions. Ten Tootsie Rolls and one Zero Bar.  I considered stealing some watermelon Pop Rocks but changed my mind feeling remorseful of the criminal that I’d become.  That left me 2 cents, which  I decided I’d put back in the coffee kitty.

This was my life now.  I was a squirrel trying to get a nut, by any means.  Five finger discounts became my way to survive.

The bell jingled again as I exited.  I used it as a Starting Gun and began counting seconds in my mind to see how long it would take me to make it back to the attic.  This time I hung a left at the tall hedge surrounding the perimeter where I’d squeezed through heading to the northwest corner of the property near a dark ally that led to the Carriage House.  It was darker and no one could possibly see me.  I maneuvered back to the open window and heard talking.  I crouched down and hid.  My heart raced and I stopped counting seconds. Now I had to focus on getting back into that window sill a foot above my reach.   I looked around for something to stand on but could not see, it was too dark.
Time to make a new plan, quick.

I’d passed mom’s car when returning through the staff lot.  It was parked in the closest of four spaces and the windows were down.  I dashed over to it and opened the passenger door quickly taking a seat putting my feet up on the dash.  I would wait for someone to come out and then let them see me exiting the car.  Then they would assume I’d been there the whole time.

I sat staring intently toward the front of the mansion where a porch with missing balusters wrapped the entire southwest side.  It was pitch black except for the bit of light that spilled from the overhead porch casting shadows onto the narrow walkway leading to the parking lot.

After ten long minutes had passed I saw a figure dash down the stairs quickly moving toward me.  It was Marlin, a staff member with a giant fuzzy fro and mustache.  He was a Course Supervisor and had a big ego.
He held a large folder under his arm and an unlit smoke in his mouth.  His pace slowed as I saw the flicker of light each time he attempted to light up.  Finally he was forced to stop and he saw me.  I felt a pang and then swallowed deeply sitting up and opening the door.

“What the fuck are you doing out here?” He asked still holding his smoke between his lips.  I lied without hesitation, “I was waiting in the car till now.” Walking past him breathing in and secretly enjoying the second hand smoke and catching the scent you get when its first lit.

“You are a fucking trouble maker aren’t you?”  It wasn’t a question.

I ignored him and walked slowly to the porch steps staying on the darker edge as I ascended into the brightly lit foyer.  The old glass door had been propped open so I slipped in pretending to look at the pamphlets left on display.

There were staff and public milling around talking gaily.  No one looked my way and I figured I was safe.  

I hadn’t even considered I would be accused of stealing from the coffee tin later that night.   At 10:05pm, after Indoctrination was over, I was pulled from to be dealt with and pay for my unproven and unethical behavior.


What do you think so far?

Cleaning Your Instant Pot

My mother was a complete nag on a few topics (of which I am eternally grateful).
Clean your body every day, brush your teeth and floss, make your bed, change your sheets once a week, brush your hair, wear clean clothes and when I graduated to having my very own kitchen: keep your kitchen and its contents sparkling and in good condition at all time.
That’s why I am proud to say I have kept a Black and Decker Toaster for way beyond its lifetime expectancy. My pots and pans are in great condition and if my mom hadn’t mistakenly given all of her pots and pans to her employee, I’d have inherited the set she purchased in Germany before I was born (dang it…get yourself a Living Trust people).
I have discovered my Instant Pot has one bothersome flaw: the ring inside the lid absorbs the flavors of the dishes I’m making. That then transfers to my next meal.  
I called IP Tech
Support (yes, a live person answered and he was mighty nice) and he warned me not to take the ring out often. I’d been removing it, scrubbing it and letting it sit in soapy dishwater. That will erode the perfect seal.

  • Wash with a soft and dish soap bubbly sopping wet rag.
  • Clean lid with the rag and pick out any food particles with a soft toothbrush.
  • Dry the lid upside down OUTSIDE IN THE SUNSHINE.
  • Order a second ring or even third. Switch out the ring with the food – sweet and salty – you cook.
  • Tilt the IP on its side next to the sink and clean out the mote between the outside and inside.
  • Pull out the water catch and rinse it then let it fully dry before putting it back.
  • Store the pot with the lid upside down (so air can get to all parts).
  • Clean your pot (and the rack) after every use sooner to the completion of your dish than later.
  • Dry the removable pot and rack (do not let them drip dry) immediately.
  • Wipe down the inside heating unit carefully with the above wet rag (squeeze it out before).


  • Use anything but dish soap and warm water.
  • Submerge the lid!
  • Remove the inner ring often.  

None of the DON’TS are disasterous.
The point is to keep your unit in good working condition (did you fill in your Warranty Card?) to last for generations if possible.
Happy Cooking and Happy Cleaning!
Great news!  Get $50 off your very own InstantPot by using Coupon Code 805BC at checkout.  You need to buy from Instant Pot’s website directly.  GO THERE NOW CLICK HERE

Homemade Cinnamon Applesauce: 4 Minutes Flat

Don’t throw out “old” or “tired” apples.  Make applesauce instead.  You can use applesauce to replace oils, sweeten a recipe naturally or just have as a snack.  

5 apples, cored (not peeled)

1t cinnamon

2T butter 

  1. Place all of your ingredients on the counter before turning on the InstantPot.
  2. Chop apples in medium slices. 1 apple should net you 6 cuts. Remove stem and seeds plus seed shells. If you really only have 4 minutes, cut apple into 12 chunks. Chunks should be same size.
  3. Set InstantPot to SAUTÉ.
  4. Add butter then count to 4 while it melts and add apples.  
  5. Stir butter and apples until they begin to sizzle (about a minute).
  6. Sprinkle cinnamon in and stir.
  7. Place lid on InstantPot.
  8. Reset to MANUAL mode.
  9. Timer at 4 minutes.
  10. Let pressure release naturally (if possible). If not, cut the apple chunks into equal smaller sizes (so one apple getting you 12 cuts for example).

I use a dry erase marker to indicate when I make a dish.
5 apples made this much chunky applesauce.

Apple sauce can be chunky or smoother. It can be used to replace oils in recipes and also sweeten food naturally.  
For a less chunky applesauce, place finished apples in a blender and pulse until you get the consistencies you are looking for.
Store in a air tight container.
Use before 3-4 days – it if lasts that long!  

I Cannot See The Stars Anymore

I’m beginning to appreciate everything more now.

ANOTHER dear friend of mine passed away last week.  Mary Smith.

I wish I had a photo of us together.  I am always the one TAKING the photos of people I love, animals I love, places I love.

Up until she passed away, she  pushed me to “go for it” when we talked about plans and wishes and dreams.  She encouraged me with ideas and ways to make it happen.  Every time I saw her she had a boot camp exercise idea – and they sounded like fun and tough.

Our last lunch together we talked about camping and adventuring out on the mountains.  My husband is an Ultra Runner which means he runs all night and has been through some fun adventures I SORT OF want to experience too.

Mary, Dan and I loved listening to Randy tell us his ultra running stories.  Mary told us about some of her fun times too.

She treated us like her own family asking questions that dug deep and were personal.

Because of that, and the fact that we’ve been friends for over 10 years now, I decided to ask her a pointy question.  “Why don’t you and Dan leave this home (Assisted Living Facility) and travel the world?”

I saw her brows drop for a moment then she took a very deep breath and hugged her cereal-box sized black “portable oxygen concentrator” machine closer to her chest.  It looked like it hurt to just breath.  She winced as she exhaled and said louder than I’ve heard her speak, “I can’t see the stars anymore.”

“What?  What do you mean?” I asked.  I was sitting right next to her and felt her annoyed frustration.

“My eyes. My vision.  I can’t see much anymore at night.  My eyes are failing.”

This sunk in as I mentally faded out of the conversation imagining what she said. The three of them kept talking but I have no idea what about.  I was lost in my own thoughts with my life being close to over and not having seen the Aurora Borealis or Niagra Falls.

I checked back in when the Chef began shouting out what the Special Of The Day would be from the center of the dining hall we were in.

Tables of 4 and 8 filled this giant room we were in.  Each table had at least 2 elderly people propped up (mostly) to eat.  Not much conversation was happening outside of the tables where families had come to visit.  Those tables also included the squeal of toddlers and babies bored or hungry while grandma or grandpa fawned over them.

Carts of jello in single-serving glass dishes and carrot cake rolled by, the Attendant smiling anticipating choices.  Mary said they already know exactly what she and Dan would want so they didn’t have to order.  She was pretty stoked about that.  They’d only been in this place a few weeks so I was happy to hear they were getting treated especially nice.

I felt like I was in a chapter of Alice In Wonderland.

Without realizing it Mary’s comment woke me up from a fog.

I still don’t know what my “Dreams” are but I will decided right there I’d appreciate MORE what I have and try to figure my dreams out.  I’m pretty sure they have animals and the planet in them.  I need and WANT to dream outside of my box!  To be inspired to LIVE before my final day on this beautiful blue and green marble we call Earth.

If you have your mom around still, I’d recommend you find out what she would love to experience and help her do it.   I wish I could have done more for my mom.

I have met more people in the last 12 years of my life than the prior 47.  They have influenced me in many different deep ways.  They’ve shown me what life is like outside of my own, and I have more gratitude for what I have (and do not have) because of it.

This video below was very inspirational to me.

I hope you watch it all the way through and get LIVING.

Rest In Peace Mary Smith.

You have changed my life for the better.  Every moment I spent with you was incredible.   I don’t know what happens when we die but I hope to see you and laugh with you again long from now.   I’m going to figure out this LIVE thing as quick as I can.