Berry + Peach Panzanella

tuscany

When I lived in Florence my favorite place to take visitors, after the galleries “dell’arte,” was rural Tuscany where we’d visit olive groves, stone villas, renaissance churches, hilltops where we’d look out and marvel at the blue of the landscape that looks just the way Da Vinci painted it, and finally an old farm for lunch where a bright Panzanella was specially prepared.

Panzanella was not something that had made its way out of Tuscany at that time. It was such a classic farmer’s dish that it wasn’t even in the restaurants in Italy. The only place you’d find it was on the farm, making it more than delicious – it was a deeply personal, historical, cultural experience of a land I thought I’d never leave.

mint raspberries-web

peaches and greens-web

It suits my nature to make a dish that uses what we have, before looking for what we don’t, but while I loved it once, this salad is just about everything I don’t eat any more – bread, tomatoes, raw onions, raw garlic. These are foods Ayurveda calls rajasic, meaning agitating to mind and body. Indeed, many find them inflammatory.

So when I had some Gluten-free bread leftover last week after an evening of entertaining at my friend Marcia’s, I remembered Panzanella and thought I’d toss it with the rest of what was lying around and see if I could come up with a sattvic version of this salad.

berries and peaches panzanella-web

You can use any bread, including gluten-free like this one. Mint is essential, and I added oregano to keep it Italian. But you could replace that with thyme, or tarragon, or even rosemary – whatever you have on hand.  Be generous with the herbs. The flavor contrast with the fruit is enlivening.

Also, please use a good olive oil. Nothing too bitter, nor too bland. The fruit is delicate enough to need a truly refined oil.

You can make this up to 24 hours ahead. The longer you keep it before serving the more marinated and delicious it all becomes, but also a bit soggy. So, it’s a trade-off – presentation or taste? It’s good both ways really. You can’t go wrong.

berry panzanella

Berry & Peach Panzanella
Serves 2-4

Stale Bread, torn into bite size pieces to make about 1-2 cups
1 carton Raspberries
a generous handful of Blackberries
1 ripe Peach
4-5 leaves of Dandelion, torn into small strips
6-8 Mint leaves
a small handful of Cilantro, optional
an even smaller handful of fresh Oregano
1/2 small Orange, juiced
1/2 Lemon, juiced
1 t Champagne Vinegar (or Red Wine Vinegar)
1 T extra virgin Olive Oil
pink Salt
fresh cracked black Pepper, optional
Arugula

In a medium-sized salad bowl, place your bread pieces. Rinse your berries, pat dry, and add to the bowl. Cut the peach into small pieces on a cutting board, saving the juices, and pour all of it into the salad. Gently stir in the dandelion, mint, optionally the cilantro, and half the oregano, then toss with the juices of orange and lemon, the vinegar and olive oil. Season to taste with salt, optionally a dash of black pepper.

Cover and allow to stand for at least half an hour before serving so the bread soaks up the juices. Refrigerate if it will stand any longer. Once you are ready to serve, lightly toss to see if the bread has absorbed enough of the juices. If the bread looks dry, carefully add a bit more orange juice (or lemon, vinegar or olive oil depending on your taste), adding just enough, and not too much or it will turn into a soggy mess.

Serve on a bed of arugula, and garnish with the remaining oregano. Alternatively, skip the arugula and enjoy it for breakfast or along with these heathy crepes for a holiday brunch.

berries and peaches panzanella-web

For original versions of Panzanella, Gourmet offers this authentic Italian version,  while the kitchn offers a very pretty, very American interpretation.

berry panzanella-covered-web

flowers-web

Orange tree
Oranges from Marcia’s Malibu garden
Happy Memorial Day weekend. In honor of the holiday and the opening of summer, I have a gift of what I call “sacred remembrance” for you. It’s a recording I did of some of my favorite verses from the Upanishads. Please leave a comment below by Monday night, and I will send it to you by email.

To all who serve and offer themselves to a greater cause, thank you. Namaste!

Citrus + Sunlight: Daily Wellness

lemon mint wellness tonic

Last week it was heat exhaustion. This week it’s home-from-school-sick-days. It seems whatever challenge the season offers, my answer is always the same: a very citrus-y water with fresh mint or ginger. It’s like drinking prana direct from the sun.

Sunny Wellness Tonic

1/2 lemon, juiced
1 small orange, clementine, or tangerine, juiced
1 glass of fresh, clean water
pink salt
fresh mint or a slice of ginger, peeled

Pour the citrus juices into a tall glass with water. Add a tiny pinch of pink salt. Crush the mint or ginger with a mortar and pestle or with the butt of a knife on your cutting board. Scrape the mint or ginger, and any juices, into your tonic and stir. Sip it at room temperature or gently warmed.

  1. Daily regime: Wake up to this every morning. Drink a full 8 ounce glass first thing on an empty stomach. It’s like waking up to liquid sunshine.
  2. Dehydration: Stir in another pinch of pink salt and sip continuously to avoid heat exhaustion, dehydration, or to help recover. Use mint, not ginger. Crushed cilantro or fresh aloe juice can also be added, especially with cases of overheating.
  3. Fighting colds: Warm it up and sip it hot, allowing the vapors to steam your nasal passages and help with decongestion. If it’s a cold you’ve got, these really potent lemon + ginger cold remedies are worth a try.

lemon wellness tonic

More:                                                      The original Lemony Ginger Tonic. Home-made Lemon Ginger Brew

Do you like these recipes? if so, please share these on Facebook, Twitter, your favorite social media, by email or word of mouth. Let’s nourish the world together.

Nettles: That Most Spring of Things

garlicky nettles

Dr Suhas, that great luminary of Ayurvedic healing, reminds us that eating our greens can be the best medicine, but he adds that greens should always be prepared with two things: garlic and lemon.

nettle leaf

Yes, nature’s medicine can be delicious.

nettles mandala

Thinking of all the lemony, garlicky greens we find in Italian, French, Greek, Chinese, African and just about every “heritage” cuisine, I am reminded again of how intuitively Ayurvedic wisdom is alive in every culture that grew up from a deep relationship with the land.

One of those classic heritage dishes is this  lemony-garlicky sauté of nettles – simple, delicious, and medicinal.

sauteed nettles-web

Why nettles? One thing wisdom elders and grandmothers knew was that the nettles growing wild in spring are delicious, potent medicine for so many of our spring concerns. As an astringent, diuretic, anthelmintic, antihistamine, decongestant, and detoxifier, nettles help your body manage the Kapha tendency of spring, especially sinus congestion, allergies, asthma.

Nettles are so good for you that my friend, the great medicine woman Shannon Thompson, recently said, “It’s easier to list the few thing nettles don’t help.”

nettles and berry blooms

Where? Nettles grow abundantly in wooded areas, by river beds, and around abandoned buildings… but if you can’t find them in your neighborhood, Traditional Medicinals makes a fine nettle tea and Frontier sells the leaves and roots in bulk. (I do not have an affiliate relationship with these companies. I do appreciate their integrity and products, and I want to help you access this natural medicine as best you can.)

Be sure to wear gloves when working with nettles. Once they are cooked, they are tender and harmless, but until then, they can really sting. And sting with a lasting vengeance. If that happens, put your hands in ice water. Then wash with soap. Use tape to extract the nettle thorns (which can be invisible). Apply a thick paste of baking soda (mixed with scant water) and allow to dry before washing off. Finally, eat your cooked nettles for the antihistamine.

sauteed nettles

Sautéed Nettles with Chewy Crunchy Garlic
Serves 2

a double handful of nettles, rinsed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T ghee or refined coconut oil
1/2 lemon
pink salt & freshly cracked black pepper to taste
optional: extra virgin olive oil, red pepper flakes

Melt ghee or coconut oil in a sauce pan over medium heat. Stir in the garlic, and sauté for a few minutes, swirling the pan now and then to distribute the heat. As soon as the garlic begins to getting golden, add the nettles. Cook a minute or two, stir and gently turn. Cook another minute or two and remove from heat once the leaves begin to lightly brown.

Squeeze a generous amount of lemon juice over the nettles, then season with black pepper and pink salt to taste (it shouldn’t need much salt thanks to the lemon). As you serve the nettles, you may optionally drizzle with olive oil, or sprinkle with red pepper flakes.

Another option to boost the health benefits is to stir a scant teaspoon of turmeric powder in with the sautéing garlic just before adding the nettles.

nettles with crunchy garlic

I mentioned Dr. Suhas. He and is wife, Dr. Manisha, are two of my great mentors. I offered Dr. Manisha’s book Eternal Beauty in this post, and offer you now Dr. Suhas’ new book,  The Art and Science of Vedic Counseling, co-written with another of my longtime mentors and friend Dr. David Frawley.

“The Art and Science of Vedic Counseling” is the best counseling guide available for students, teachers, and practitioners of Ayurveda, Yoga, and related healing arts. The book is an ever-cherished collection of knowledge, wisdom and a practical, clinical reference. I highly recommend the book to all who love Yoga & Ayurveda.”
~ Vasant Lad, Ayurvedic Physician

If you would like to be entered to receive this book, please leave a comment below.

how to cook nettles
Do you suffer from spring allergies? If so, I highly recommend a daily dose of nettles – along with this great article from Banyan Botanicals on Ayurveda’s approach to allergies.

Do you have a favorite nettle recipe? Do you have memories of a grandmother harvesting greens in spring? How do you keep the traditions of nature’s medicine alive in your life, your family, our world? I would love to hear. Thank you & Namaste!

Do you have a favorite nettle recipe? Do you have memories of a grandmother harvesting greens in spring? How do you keep the traditions of nature’s medicine alive in your life, your family, our world? I would love to hear. Thank you & Namaste!

 

Himalayan Halva

As we continue to travel, “six tasting India” both north and south, there are certain dishes that elicit such oohs and ahhs they have to be shared. Fortunately, wherever we go the restaurant staff is so delighted by the exclamations of praise that recipes are readily granted. One such was Chef Altah Shah of Raga on the Ganges whose delightful meal creations overcame language barriers to communicate friendship, generosity and loving nourishment.

Chef at Raga

Laura's India Yatra

This red halva may not fit easily into the category of “Ayurvedically inspired” but I could make a case for it.

First, it comes from India as does Ayurveda. That may sound like a weak start but it’s almost impossible to separate Ayurvedic medicine from the culture where it was born. So many of Ayurveda’s staple meals resemble Indian classics – dal, rices, vegetable soups and broths – and involve Indian ingredients like ghee, boiled milk, mung dal, cardamom, ginger, etc.

Most importantly, many Ayurvedic medicines are stirred into boiled milk, often with jaggery added. That may seem odd, but this age-old tradition holds that bitter herbs and astringent medicines are rendered optimally bioavailable when blended with foods of the hydrating, cooling, strengthening, sweet taste.

Plus, beets are good for you.

Beet Halva
What they call Beetroot Halva, we might call a Beet Pudding. It is a creamy curiosity. We had fun asking people to guess what it was before we told them. Some thought chocolate, others a rice or nut pudding, and one even thought it was cookie dough. Each had a different guess, but no one guessed beets!

Here is the recipe translated from Chef Shah who makes desserts in large quantities and measures in the metric system. I made this yesterday for friends who raved, so I think the translation works. Earlier this week I tried translating it even further into a vegan dish. As it relies heavily on milk, as most Indian desserts do, it was a risk. But before anyone knew what the original would taste like, they swooned over the vegan version. That recipe, plus three photos of the vegan halva served with coconut ice cream, are below.

Beetroot Halwa

2 c beets, grated
2 c organic whole milk
1/2 c khoya*
1/2 c jaggery (raw sugar)
1/3 c ghee or coconut oil
25 cashews
25 g raisins

Put grated beets in a saucepan with milk and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for an hour. Add khoya, sugar, ghee, nuts and raisins. Stir. Serve warm. It is delicious with homemade vanilla ice cream, or plain yogurt.

*Khoya: You can make khoya by bringing 3 cups of organic whole milk to a boil and then simmering for two hours to reduce. 

FullSizeRender 7

Vegan Beetroot Halwa

2 c beets, grated
2 c organic coconut milk
1/2 c coconut milk khoya**
1/2 c dates, pitted and chopped
2 handfuls cashews
1 handful golden raisins
maple syrup, to taste – optional
dash cardamom
dash ginger

Soak cashews. Soak dates. Put grated beets in a saucepan with milk and bring to  boil. Reduce and simmer for one hour. Drain cashews and dates, Add to beets along with khoya, raisins and spices. Stir and simmer until reduced to a pudding like consistency. Taste and add maple syrup if needed.

Serve warm. It is delicious with coconut ice cream.

**Coconut Khoya: I made the khoya with organic coconut milk by bringing 3 cups (equivalent to two 13.5 ounce cans) to a boil and then simmering for 1 hour to reduce. 

FullSizeRender 9

In India today is Holi, a colorful day celebrating the arrival of Spring. Honoring mother nature’s blossoming beauty, I want to celebrate that in you too – and so am offering my friend Dr. Manisha Kshirsagar’s new book Enchanting Beauty to one beautiful reader. Please leave a comment below if you are interested in this gift.

What is your intent for your beautiful self this Spring?

 

GF Crepes with Cinnamon Orange Honey

gf pancake (1)

Traveling through India inspires me to share with you something we’ve been enjoying. Dosas, rotis, chapatis and rice flour “pancakes” have been favorites with our group this year, and are easy to make at home for a healthy and delicious breakfast.

ganges

Based on the simple flatbread called chapati, this egg-free recipe can be modified to your tastes. Make the batter a bit thicker by adding less water and you have pancakes. Make it thinner and you have a more delicate crepe.

There is no milk in the dough, just ghee for cooking. If you want to make it completely dairy free, replace the ghee with coconut oil. For a more savory version, swap the cinnamon and cardamom for fenugreek, dill, garlic or fennel.

Mung dal is yellow in color and also known as split mung bean. Look for it at Indian or Asian markets, or save yourself time and go to my favorite source, the online store Banyan Botanicals

rice lentil pancake-sm l

It’s quick to make, just read through the recipe before you begin as there is a bit of prep you need to do the day before serving.

Gluten-free Crepes
Serves 4-6

1 c rice
1/2 c mung dal
water for soaking
2 c water for batter
pinch pink salt
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t cardamom
2 T ghee

Cinnamon Orange Honey
1 orange
1/4 c raw local honey
1/2 t cinnamon

To Make the Crepes
Combine the rice and dal in a large bowl. Cover with 3 inches of water and soak 8-10 hours. Drain. Transfer to a blender or food processor, and purée with the two cups of water and salt until smooth. Transfer back to the bowl, cover with a towel, and let stand six to 12 hours at room temperature, or until the batter is fermented and slightly bubbly on the surface. Stir in the spices and mix well.

Preheat your oven to its lowest setting. Melt 1 T ghee in a large skillet or iron griddle over medium heat. Let it get hot, then ladle the batter onto the skillet. Allow it to cook about three minutes or until it is golden on the underside. Gently and cook another minute or so until both sides are golden. Slide onto a baking tray and set in the oven to keep warm while you make up the rest. Add more ghee as needed.

To Make the Cinnamon Orange Honey
Juice the orange and pour the liquid into a small bowl. Add the honey and cinnamon and whisk together until well blended. Pour over the crepes for a perfect March breakfast.

Ideas for Serving
Pair it with half a grapefruit for a citrusy wake up in the morning, or lather it with almond butter. Serve it with your lunch or dip it into hummus or plain yogurt for a snack. For a lovely dessert, slice bananas over it while it cooks, fold it in half and drizzle with honey or maple syrup. It is also good on its own and excellent for soaking up the last drops of juices, sauces and soups.

The leftover batter can be refrigerated and used within 4-5 days.

morgan and pancake copy

parmarth niketan ashram rishikesh
Parmarth Niketan Ashram, Rishikesh
moon over rishikesh-sml
Moon over the Himalayan foothills at sunrise today

 

I am posting photos of this exquisite trip here and here if you would like to taste a bit of the nectar. Meanwhile, I wish you all light, love and peace.

Namaste. 

 

Love + Links

On a day when the wind is perfect,
the sail just needs to open
and the love starts.

Today is such
a day.

~Rumi

pure vege chocolate-cake

It’s Valentine’s Day and I want to share Love by sharing with you some of my favorite Ayurvedic blogs, and some favorite poetry.

Four Faves

Pure Vege

As a bhakti-yogini, Pure Vege’s author Lakshmi says her “work lies within the realm of consciousness…” allowing her “to live a simple, sustainable life and make responsible choices. Cooking healthy and wholesome is an exercise of love and goodness… an essential yoga-practice.”  Her recipes run from the Yogic/Ayurvedic basics to the multi-layered, multi-spiced, multi-flavored meals of India. Always, she maintains an elegant simplicity that celebrates the beauty of nature, and as you see from her “eggless chocolate cake” above, her photographs are mouth-watering.

journey kitchen pancakes

Journey Kitchen

A food photographer and stylist by profession, Umme Kulsum is also a food writer through her blog, Journey Kitchen. She explains, “My food is influenced by my Indian roots, Middle Eastern upbringing and interest in food from around the world. My non-Indian friends call me an Indian cook with modern touches while most Indians would call my food some kind of ‘fusion’ but I just see myself as an Indian cook who does what our ancestors have always been doing – take influences from the people, produce and life around us.”

Clarie Vidya - KitchariVidya Living

Another great talent, Claira Ragozzino devotes her beautiful blog entirely to Ayurveda and Yogic living. “Vidya actually means clarity, knowledge, and inner wisdom,” she writes. “And I believe, like wisdom, wellness starts from within. Vidya Living is where I share, teach and inspire holistic wellness fusing the ancient practices of Ayurveda and Yoga with modern plant-based nutrition.” It all looks so clean, hearty, warm and romantic.

Vidya - Beet Bowl1

Banyan Botanicals Blog

Claire took this photo for Banyan Botanicals, the Ayurvedic formulary now blogging with posts from seasoned practitioners across the field. Because Banyan sells Ayurvedic herbs and products the articles are more medical and precise than you usually find in more personal and flavor-focused food blogs. But it is still a blog – with a pull up a chair and a have a cuppa welcoming feel.

~~~

God came to my house and asked for charity.
And I fell on my knees and
cried, “Beloved,

what may I
give?”

“Just love,” He said.
“Just love.”

~St. Francis of Assisi

ayurvedanextdoor

Three More

I’ve mentioned her in my favorites list before, and I still love Kate Schwabacher who writes with authority, even as she shares her learning and growing.

I’ll always love Vegenista for its beauty, creativity and deep commitment to principles, but especially because Melissa writes with such a pure heart. She gives and she gives.

Finally, Ayurveda Next Door has captured my attention with a dedication to values, fresh articles and thoughtful community building.

Founder Jennifer Eddinger is an “Ayurveda convert, living and breathing the Ayurvedic diet and lifestyle since her first consultation in 1999.” Jennifer subsequently took it upon herself to organize an online directory of Ayurveda, listing practitioners, suppliers and schools to provide greater access to all.

It’s a complex undertaking, but Jennifer and her team are masterful. Reading between their lines, you also can feel they are really good souls. The two photos above and one below are from their blog.

pitta-dosha-ayurveda next door

Don’t forget love,
It will bring you all the madness you need
to unfurl yourself across the universe.

~Mirabai

Namaste my fellow food, beauty, heart and cosmic life lovers!
Happy Love Day always.

 

MA’s Chocolate Tart + Dosha Bars Giveaway

Melissa Ambrosini Chocolate Orange Tart

Nowadays we make friends in such new and interesting ways – over the ethers of email, blogs, social media. I call them “my blog friends” and at least for me, it’s not until I actually get to be with this person in person that I realize I have never actually met them in person. 

Such is the way with Melissa Ambrosini (love that her initials are MA). Melissa is the divine beauty who writes and blogs and generally loves the world from her bright perch over Sydney’s seafront. After years of connecting via Skype and following each other’s travels on Instagram, Melissa just called to say that she’s coming to visit. I love that odd feeling that combines looking forward to seeing a great friend with the anticipation of meeting someone new. (Robyn Field, you’re next!)

In honor of friendship, which is the divine love I am celebrating this Valentine’s Day, Melissa has given me permission to share her Chocolate & Orange Tart. I hope you love it. I know you will love her.

Melissa’s Chocolate & Orange Tart

For the base:

2 ½ c shredded coconut
½ t vanilla bean powder (I used vanilla extract and it worked just fine)
½ t cinnamon
4 T coconut oil
1 egg
Pinch of salt
½ t liquid stevia (if you don’t like stevia, try 1 tablespoon maple syrup)

For the filling:

Zest and juice of 2 oranges
1/4 t liquid stevia (or to taste)
3 eggs (free range and organic)
6 T coconut oil
3 T cacao powder
2 T cacao butter, melted

Blend all base ingredients in food processor. Line the base of a pie pan with non-stick paper. Press base mixture into the pan and up the sides about 1 cm high. Press and pack firm. Bake in an oven on 140 degrees until golden brown, then remove from oven to cool down.

To make the filling, whisk eggs in a saucepan. Add coconut oil and place on a gentle heat until oil is melted into eggs while stirring constantly to avoid the eggs clumping. Once melted, add orange juice, orange zest (reserve a generous pinch for garnish), cacao and stevia. Keep stirring until the mixture starts to get silky. Avoid it getting too thick as the oil will separate.

Take off heat. Press the mixture through a strainer into the cooled base, leaving only zest in the strainer. Shake the pan until the filling covers the whole base evenly. Place in fridge to set (approximately 2 hours). Serve with grated orange zest on top.

Note: You can make these into little tartlets if you prefer.

Melissa Ambrosini's Gut Healthy Brownie

This recipe, along with the gut-healthy chocolate brownie  pictured above, and made with the genius of a sweet potato, are two of many gorgeous recipes in Melissa’s Glow Kitchen Recipe eBook.

As you’ll see from her recipes, Melissa chooses high protein, clean foods, influenced by the seven principles of Body Ecology (a system that seems to me to come straight from Ayurveda, especially Ayurvedic principles for Vata Dosha). If you are Vegan, I have many healthy, nutritious, belly-loving and mouth watering, chocolate recipes for you here.

Dosha Bars

By the way, Love came to me last month in a box of Dosha Bars – delicious, unsweetened fruit and seed snacks made of ingredients that balance the three doshas. To share that love we’ve teamed up to offer 3 winners a sample kit with 3 Dosha Bars (each kit includes one of each flavor–Cherry Chakra to balance Vata, Blueberry Balance for Pitta balancing and Apple Cran Awakening to balance Kapha) AND a 12-pack of Dosha Bars (including 4 of each flavor) for one lucky lover! If you like to stay healthy in the midst of a busy life, please check out their website to learn about this young, Ayurvedic team and let’s show them some love for all their generosity.

We’ll pick randomly from the comments. So please let us know, what are you celebrating this Valentine’s Day? How is love showing up in your life? I love stories of love, so do share.

I hope Love fills you with its gifts this weekend and always. Namaste!

 

 

Chocolate Brahmi Bark

chocolate brahmi bark

There’s something I like to make every so often that has been, for me, a private, intimate, close-to-my heart endeavor.

It’s something I make for special occasions. Or so I think. Probably I make up excuses to make it for special occasions at times when what I really need is to make something sweet (tender) and holy – times when I need to honor the moon, or the earth, or the medicine of herbs, or deep quietude, or nature’s gentle flow, or simply to be alone with my ancient treasures of dusty cacao, exotic herbs, silk road spices, and sweet oils.

Chocolate Brahmi Bark

chocolate brahmi bark

I make this with a still as yet, little known herb.  While Ayurvedic herbs are prolific these days – Tulsi in the teas, Triphala in tablet form in health food stores, Ashwagandha now in many doctor’s formulas – my beloved Brahmi remains a great, rare treasure. Described as a “food of the gods” for its heavenly gifts, it is one of my favorites and “working with it” always gives me a secret delight.

The whole process of making this, as quick and simple as it is, feels ancient and sumptuous. I feel called back to a timeless time: stirring the powders into the oils stirs up the merry voices of mothers, aunts, and grandmothers who once shared their stories and delights around the stirring of daily medicines and meals. It helps restore me to myself, and to the whole that we are, all of us alive together in this one world.  It’s a prayer of sorts: something you don’t really talk about, yet is deep and connecting.

It’s holy work, and it’s good medicine.

chocolate nut brahmi bark

chocolate nut bark

brahmi-bark

Brahmi Bark

4 T coconut oil
2 hearty shakes of cinnamon
1 dash of cardamom
1 pinch of pink salt
1 t vanilla extract
4 T maple syrup
4 T raw cacao
1/4 – 1/2 t Brahmi powder (I purchase mine online here)
Your choice of: chopped nuts, minced dates, lightly toasted seeds  – my favorites are macadamia, medjool, and pumpkin

In a shallow pan, melt the coconut oil. Add the spices, vanilla and maple syrup and blend. Bring to a very light simmer and reduce heat. Stir to release steam. After a few minutes, mix in the cacao and blend well. Keep stirring and releasing steam, careful to keep it just under a boil.

If you are adding nuts, push a bit of the mixture to the side, add the nuts to a clear, dry spot and allow to brown a bit (or toast in a separate pan).

Add the Brahmi – careful not to add too much. More is not necessarily better. Ayurvedic herbs are potent, so a little goes a long way. Start with 1/4 teaspoon, mix well and taste. If you can’t taste it add a little bit more going to 1/2 teaspoon at the most. If you add too much, it will ruin the taste of the chocolate, and when that happens even your body doesn’t like it – it will reject the medicine, and the whole thing becomes a distasteful waste.  Medicine is an alchemy. It deserves our respect.

In a small baking dish, lay a piece of parchment paper. Whisk your chocolate mixture one more time in the pan. When it is thoroughly, thoroughly blended, pour into the baking dish and allow it to flow to the edges until it is evenly spread. Place the dish in your refrigerator and let cool.

After an hour or so (sometimes even 2-3), it will harden. Remove from the fridge. Lift the parchment paper out of the baking tray. Carefully break the bark into pieces. It will break according to its own design, so just give it a nudge and allow it to break as it will.  Place each piece onto small pieces of parchment, stack and place back in your fridge until ready to be served.

Enjoy with a rose fennel tea, or a lovely light lassi. The point is, enjoy.

Brahmi chocolate

brahmi bark with cacao

Brahmi is a brain tonic. It strengthens cognitive function, memory, focus, concentration. It is said to coat the nerves, so it calms even while it strengthens. It makes you smarter, increasing your capacity to meet the demands of your day with patience and clarity. For its impact on the mind and mood, I think of it as the “happy herb.”

Traditionally, it’s added to stress-relieving  formulas, as well as rejuvenative tonics. I love it for its Sattva – light, uplifitng, elevating actions. Sometimes I imagine a sage took his best meditative experience from his mind and placed it in the Brahmi plant as a gift for all of us to experience.

I guess in some way that is what happened, right? After all, the intelligence that created our world created Brahmi, and that divine mind is in its leaves for all of us to taste a bit of heaven.

Speaking of Ayurvedic herbs, I am leading a small group on a trip to India to experience one full week of Ayurveda – daily treatments including warm oil massage, lessons in herbs, delicious healing meals, Yoga, walking meditations, jungle hikes – followed by a tour of some of the most important shines, temples, ashrams, sacred mountains and beautiful ancient villages. It will be a sumptuous, healing, heart-expanding trip. I invite you to join us – or at least check it out and dream with us.

Chocolate crumbs

I’ll send a few ounces of Brahmi powder to three of you. Just leave a comment below (names randomly picked).

To heavenly tastes, holy stirrings, healing adventures, and your good health ~
Namaste!

Thai Cabbage Noodle Salad

cabbage salad-watermarked

Recently I made a cabbage salad, and it was terrible.

Really terrible. 

So, of course I had to make it again and get it right.

The problem in the first place was that while cabbage is great for summer, and summer people, it’s great because it is bitter. Ayurveda explains that bitter tasting foods combine the elements of space and air, which of course are cooling. These elements are also light, subtle, expansive – all qualities that help us maintain ease in the heat of August – and that is why I added so much of it. To cool down… 

But because bitter is so detoxifying, purifying, releasing, our bodies aren’t naturally drawn to that flavor. Instead, we are drawn to the taste that gives us strength and emotional ease, requisite qualities for our itinerant ancestors. What is that taste? You guessed it – sweet, of course. That is why we crave sweet tastes when we feel weak, physically or emotionally.

Interestingly, the deeper tissues in your body love sweet too, so Ayurveda has evolved formulas to combine the bitter taste with the sweet in order to drive the medicinal benefits of bitter into your deepest inner workings, where it can clean you out and power you up.

So after I took one bite of the salad, I was embarrassed. But on the second bite, I knew just what it needed: Something sweet.

thai dressing-watermarked

almond butter dressing

Rice noodles were added, and the fix is delicious. It’s a sweet, summer noodle salad with much less cabbage now. I did keep the name Thai Cabbage Salad as I was going for a new way to enjoy that fabulously heat reducing, pitta-balancing, heart-healthy crisp purple brassica, that turns so lusciously pink when “quick fermented” and marinated in vinegar.

Feel free to use what you have on hand. For instance, if you don’t have coconut vinegar then use rice. Just know that coconut vinegar has a sweetness to it so it needs to be replaced with another mild vinegar. The ever more popular Apple Cider Vinegar would be too strong.

If your market doesn’t sell Persian cucumbers, use your favorites. Persian cucumbers have a thinner and less bitter skin, and it’s not waxy like the “regular ol” cucumbers. With a lovely economy of seeds, Persians are crispy without being watery, too. I only use these nowadays, but if you can’t find them, use the larger cukes and remove the seedy middle.

You can also replace the almond butter with another favorite nut butter. Peanut butter would be standard in Thai cooking, but I prefer almond butter for health and taste. With only 2 tablespoons, it gives a mild sweetness. You can certainly add another spoonful or two if you want to accentuate that nutty taste. Add another spoon of the soba water too for consistency.

You might like to add more garlic if you like pungency. On that note, I didn’t add any red pepper – which all true Thai dishes would include. But this is a summer salad, and summer is a season to reduce heat, especially internal heat. If you are feeling the heat these days, skip it. It doesn’t need it. But if you are “down under,” bravely trying a mostly raw salad in winter, or if you are one who generally runs cool with a slower metabolism, then by all means feel free to add a dash or two of your best red pepper flakes.

Finally, a true Thai dressing would have ginger. Again, it didn’t need it for taste, but if you are Vata, certainly add ginger – fresh or ground – and lots of it. In fact, if you are Vata, don’t bother cooling the noodles. Just toss it all together with the noodles freshly drained and enjoy it warm.

It takes no time to prepare, but be sure to get your cabbage in the vinegar for a quick ferment at least 4 hours before serving. One final note: I love using cilantro lately as a salad leaf, so I just trim away the stems. It’s fast and easy and it makes a more beautiful salad.

thai cabbage salad
Thai Cabbage Salad

1 cup purple cabbage, sliced thin
1/4 cup coconut vinegar
1 package rice or buckwheat (soba) noodles
a few handfuls of your favorite summer lettuce, torn
4 small cucumbers, semi peeled (persian cucumbers are my favorite)
2 spring onions, chopped
1 bunch cilantro, stems trimmed away
2 handfuls of sunflower seeds
black and white sesame seeds
a dash of pink salt
Optional: fresh cracked black pepper

Dressing

1 tablespoon coconut oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons almond butter
2 tablespoons soba noodle water
1 teaspoon gluten free tamari
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 lime

I run the purple cabbage through my spiralizer to slice it thin. Whatever way is best for you, slice it very thin. In the morning, or the night before, place the cabbage in a bowl and cover with vinegar. Set aside. If overnight, set in fridge.

When you are ready to prepare your salad, prepare the noodles according to the instructions on the package. Drain, reserving a bit of the water for you dressing. Put the noodles in a bowl with ice and set in your refrigerator to cool.

In your salad bowl, pour your cabbage with vinegar, and add the rest of the salad ingredients.

Make the dressing by gently warming the coconut oil with the garlic. Once the garlic begins to sizzle, stir in the almond butter. Allow that to warm thoroughly for a minute or two, then add the soba noodle water and whisk well. Take off the heat.  Stir in the tamari first and then the olive oil. Add more soba water to thin and get the consistency you need for a salad dressing. Pour over the salad and lightly toss. Finish by sprinkling the juice of one lime over the salad and again lightly tossing. Taste and adjust salt and pepper, and serve.

Yes, taste and adjust. My new motto for life.

tossing salad

The bright fuchsia and life-announcing green of this salad is so gorgeous. They were my favorite colors as a teenager so it was a perfect salad to celebrate the close of our week at camp, where all of us were reminded of our years as teens. At our Yoga and Ayurveda Camp for girls, we hope to make those years powerful, heart-centered and affirming by giving life mastery skills to our upcoming teens.

At the end of camp, the older girls posted to our Camp blog a photo essay, and later a “music video” of their week. But it was accidentally uploaded here on my food blog instead of here. I apologize for that confusion.

sophia camp

Update

While I was busy with Camp and visitors, I found myself deeply enjoying the beauty of summer. In addition to lots of fresh, cooling salads, I’ve also enjoyed taking this to summer parties and serving visiting friends a gluten-free adaptation of these for breakfast.

Meanwhile, I promised a summer of giveaways and now I have a great one for you: The Sublime Restaurant Cookbook. It’s from a Vegan restaurant in Fort Lauderdale where we stopped overnight last Spring to hop on a cruise to teach Yoga and Ayurveda to healthy food lovers. The cookbook is inspiring, and the recipes are mostly very user-friendly for home cooks. Just leave a comment below. We will pick randomly by week’s end.

How have you spent your summer? What’s been your favorite meal this season?

I am grateful to you for reading my blog. It means more to me than you’ll ever know. Thanks for being a health lover, which is really a life lover, which is exactly what our world needs right now. So thank you for the love in you that every day makes the world a better place.

The Summer Six: Cool Foods for a Cool Summer

Summer is Pitta season. Pitta means heat. It’s hot. I presume you’ve noticed?

There are six foods I lean into during the summer that I want to share with you. These are good any time, any day in summer, and any time, any season for summer people (meaning people of pitta constitution).

In fact, these six are so fundamental to Ayurveda and its approach to “hot bodies” that it could be considered the ABCCCD’s of summer!

aloe water photo by monique feil Aloe

The Egyptians referred to aloe as the “plant of immortality” and placed it with the funerary gifts buried with the pharaohs. Not only the Egyptians, but the Chines, Greeks and Romans loved aloe, too. It is traditionally used to heal wounds, relieve itching and swelling, and is known for its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.

The leaves of Aloe Vera are made up of a clear, viscous gel that is 96% water. The other four percent contains 75 known substances including Vitamins A, B, C, E, calcium, amino acids for protein building, and enzymes used in digestion.

In addition to the skin, aloe helps heal other epitheliums in our body including the lining of the gut, the bronchial tubes and the genital tract. When taken internally, aloe vera aids the digestion and absorption of nutrients while clearing toxins out of the g.i. tract, helps control blood sugar, increases energy production, purifies the blood, reduces inflammation, promotes cardiovascular health, improves liver function, encourages cellular renewal, boosts the immune system, and cools your internal fires.

Please note: Pregnant women and children under five should not take aloe vera internally.

  • For skin health and digestive healing, you can take 1 tablespoon of Aloe juice in the morning.

  • One of my favorite smoothies, this Green Goddess Morning Glory, features aloe as a key ingredient.

  • For a very simple tonic, mix together 1/3 cup Aloe juice with 1/2 cup water and 1 tablespoon black cherry concentrate to make an Aloe drink which you can have as a morning wake-me-up, or about an hour before bed, as an evening tonic to help cool you down and ease you into sleep.

burdock_1

Burdock

Scientific studies in Germany (1967) and Japan (1986) show burdock to have powerful antifungal and antibacterial actions. It is such a good blood purifier that Native Americans used it for venomous bites, and it is highly regarded for irritable skin conditions like eczema.

I purchase burdock root in the bulk section of my local fresh market.

  • You can put a handful of the root pieces in a teapot in the morning, pour boiling water up to the rim (4 cups), and stir in a small fist of hand crushed mint leaves. Optionally, you can add a few seeds of fennel. Let it cool to room temperature, and pour through a strainer into a glass. If it is too bitter, stir with a teaspoon of maple syrup.
  • You can also add burdock to soups and stews. Just toss it in early and cook long enough to soften.

cilantro detox juice

Cilantro

Cilantro is called Coriander in most parts of the world, including India where Ayurveda originated thousands of years ago. In the U.S., Coriander just refers to the cilantro seed.

Cilantro/Coriander is a source of Vitamins B, C, & K, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, iron, phyto-nutrients, and flavonoids. It helps with digestion, relieves intestinal gas, prevents nausea, and regulates appetite. Coriander is a mild diuretic, an anti-inflammatory, and contains anti-histamines, flavonoids and phenols that help with allergies. 

Cilantro/Coriander promotes proper functioning of the liver and as a beneficial source of dietary fiber, it facilitates bowel movements, helps with diarrhea, and is shown to protect against urinary tract infections.

Researchers in Portugal found that oil extracted from coriander seeds can kill bacteria such as E. coli, which are related to food-borne diseases. This spice also has anti-fungal properties. Natural compounds in coriander leaves remove toxic heavy metals from the body without any side effects.

  • Cilantro is so good for you I add it to just about everything, and love making this Cilantro Pesto for pasta and salads. You can drink the juice, by blending handfuls of it stems and all with water, and you can apply a poultice of cilantro topically to help reduce, and cool, irritable skin rashes.

  • To make a poultice, wash a bunch of cilantro. pick out the brown or spoiled leaves and put the rest in a high-speed blender. Use stems and leaves. Add a half cup of water and blend on high until the cilantro is thoroughly liquefied. Strain, saving the liquid for your cilantro tonic. Apply the pulp to your skin, directly on the rash. Cover with a wrap so it holds.

coconut

Coconut

For its chill factor and numerous other benefits, Coconut, grown in the hot tropics where it is practically always summer, is that perfect hot season food. Offering sweet, healthy hydration to restore moisture, minerals and electrolytes, coconut is so delicious and so perfect for humans it has even been used in I.V. drips.

Cucumber Mint

Cucumber

When it comes to therapeutic summer foods, cucumber is at the top of my list of thirst-quenching, instant-cooling vegetables. As a diuretic, it is an effective reducer of heat and inflammation, and a good skin remedy.  The moisture-promoting, juicy cucumber contains more than 90% water and is rich in minerals.

According to Rebecca Wood, brilliant author of the equally brilliant, must-have resource, The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia, cucumber assists in cleansing and purifying blood, positively affects the heart and stomach, and contains erepsin, a digestive enzyme that is useful in breaking down protein, clearing the intestine of parasites (such as tapeworm) and cleaning the intestines. Cucumber increases kapha and brings pacification to vata and pitta.

  • Cucumber is so well appreciated for its cooling benefits, beauty experts have advocated the cucumber slice on the eyes treatment for centuries. Did you know your eyes are an expression of pitta in your body? So it makes sense to cool your eyes in the summer to bring down heat in you body, and cucumbers are one way of doing that.

  • Bring cucumber peels on summer activities with you so that if you or a loved one begins to overheat, you can place a cucumber peel on the back of the neck, at the temples, or over closed eyes. Back home, whip up this Cucumber Refresher or this refreshing Persian Cucumber Salad to relax and chill.

Red Danedelion

Dandelion

Dandelion root and its greens (the whole plant is medicinal) have been used as tonics and liver medicines in European folk medicine since the time of the ancient Greeks, and Hippocratic medicine, which we believe emerged from the Greeks interactions with Ayurvedic doctors and Yogis (thanks to Alexander the Great!).

In Ayurveda, Dandelion is used to treat various liver disorders such as jaundice, cirrhosis of the liver, and enlargement of the liver. Chronic disease of the metabolism and internal organs, especially gout and liver disease are some of the most consistent, long-standing indications for Dandelion and it is a fact that it is one of the best agents with which to intervene in chronic rheumatic disease’.

  • Try this Beauty Brew with dandelion, peppermint, nettles, rose, lemon balm, lavender and chamomile to cool and relax, while healing and rejuvenating skin.

My Ayurvedic Summer Cleanse is full of these cooling ingredients in delicious and effective pitta reducing recipes. We have just begun, and it is not too late to join us! It is only 5 days, and all by donation so everyone can participate.  You get amazing support, daily emails and lots of loving, kind souls to keep you inspired and on track.

Enjoy summer, and let me know how I can help you to remember that nature is Love, loving you all the time.

Namaste!

NB: recently a post by our Sophia Campers was accidentally published here, when it was meant for here, http://sophiacamp.org I invite you to head over and read it, as it was written by our baiting Italian girls summarizing their five days at Camp learning Yoga and Ayurveda. 

Coconut Mango Lime Cobbler

Mango Coconut CobblerLately I’ve been shaking my head a lot. How is it that inspiration happens? How is it that the perfect thing presents itself right in front of you at just the right time? How, for instance, did Amy Chaplin‘s Vegan Peach Cobbler appear in my Instagram feed just when I was getting back into the kitchen to prep my Ayurvedic Summer Cleanse? I hadn’t even heard of her…

But it was divine that it did, because it set off a chain of creative reactions in our summer kitchen, and this adaptation is one result: a Coconut Lime Mango Cobbler that applies Ayurvedic principles while staying true to Amy’s genius.

By God’s grace, I whisper while shaking my head. By God’s grace there is an Amy Chaplin, a summer kitchen – a summer at all, with its fruits of berries, peaches, mango,there’s a fabulously wonderful family, and friends like Annemarie Brown who show up at just the right moment, bearing their own magnitude of gifts, and with whom to share mother nature’s Ojas, and life’s illuminating grace.

mango cobbler

mango lime coconut cobbler

I am not saying this will be in our summer cleanse, as we avoid sugar. But Ayurveda does say that maple syrup is okay for summer, good for Pitta dosha, and restorative when we overheat. In fact, some of Ayurveda’s most staple formulas call for jaggery, honey, maple syrup or coconut sugar as anupana, meaning as a carrier to help deliver the medicine.

I guess you could say then, that the very little bit of so-called healthy coconut sugar added to this cobbler carries the medicine of love, because nature’s gifts of mango, coconut, maple syrup, lime, the cardamom flower, how is that anything but love reaching out to you, saying yes to you, saying I am life, I surround you, and I am everywhere loving you. Have you seen the way mangoes just drop from the tree at the very moment you pass by?

vegan cobbler

healthy mango coconut cobbler

Coconut Lime Mango Cobbler
adapted from Amy Chaplin’s Peach Cobbler
Serves 8-10

Filling

3 medium sized mangos, peeled and sliced into bite size pieces
2 T maple syrup
3 T arrowroot powder
2 t vanilla extract
1 T lime juice
1/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t cardamom
pinch of pink salt

Topping

1/4 c unsweetened almond milk
1 t fresh lime juice
2 1/2 c coconut flour
3/4 t baking soda
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t cardamom
1/2 c coconut sugar
1/4 t pink or sea salt
1/3 c melted extra virgin coconut oil
2 T maple syrup

In a small bowl, combine the almond milk and lime juice and set aside. It will separate, curdle, clot, or as Amy charmingly says, “clabber.”

Preheat your oven to 350F. In a large bowl, mix all the filling ingredients together and stir until the arrow root is completely dissolved.  Pour this filling into an 8×11 baking dish and spread evenly.

In a medium bowl, sift together the coconut flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and cardamom. Add coconut sugar and salt and stir well. Melt the coconut oil, and work into the flour mixture until it is completely moistened. Stir in the clabbered almond milk and maple syrup. Crumble over the mango and bake for 25 minutes, until the fruit bubbles and the top lightly browns.

My family loved it for breakfast with fresh blueberries, bananas and greek yogurt. In the afternoon, it would be terrific with coconut cream. Drizzle with maple syrup if you like that extra it of sweetness, and be sure to use fresh mangoes to get that juicy, syrupy filling, that so delightfully balances the light crunch of the clabbered cobble. It is truly the taste of summer.

beauteous mango cobbler

cobbler breakfast for Mo

Please enjoy this succulent summer dessert ~ and then come join me for our 2015 Ayurvedic Summer Cleanse. It’s only 5 days, and is offered by donation this year – making it easier and more accessible for all people everywhere to be happy and free (or at least to join one of my seasonal Cleanses). All the details are here.

Continuing our summer giveaways, please leave a comment below and I will randomly pick one person to enroll in my summer cleanse, no donation required.  I love hearing from you – you are part of our circle of creativity, inspiration, grace – the divine synchronicity. So tell us, in what ways is summer loving you?

I hope summer is loving you good. And let me know what you think of the Cobbler.

Namaste!

Vegan Sushi

summer vegan sushi
Summer is definitely here. The children are out of school, the weather is heating up, we are outdoors every day, and our little island is overrun with tourists- reminding us how lucky we are to live here in this blessed village by the sea.

Inspired by Chef Joann, the all-star caterer for our Sophia Camp Benefit Fundraisers, I thought I’d try a Vegan version of sushi, and now this is one of my favorite summer lunches. It works well for picnics as it is an easy pack, and it’s been a favorite at parties. You can make it with anything, even almond butter and banana, so it’s a child pleaser too, especially if you involve them in choosing their own ingredients and rolling their own rolls.

Picnic Meals-Vegan Sushi

Vegan Sushi-Collard Rolls

Vegan Sushi Roll

You can do so much with this. You could julienne a cucumber, slice an avocado, grate zucchini, add vibrancy with red or yellow pepper, replace the chard with any fresh, favorite green, spoon in some hummus, stack some rice – really it is all according to your own taste, creativity and local, seasonal availability.

Vegan Sushi
makes 4 servings

4 Collard Leaves
2 Carrots
2 Chard leaves
1 small handful of Sun Sprouts
Bamboo skewers

Optional, any or all: 
2-3 Basil leaves
1 small handful Cilantro
a pinch of Dill

Aioli
2 T Vegan Mayonnaise
1 t Dijon Mustard
1 clove Garlic, finely minced, or 1/2 t garlic powder
1 t fresh Lemon juice
Sprinkle of Red Pepper Flakes
Pink Salt & fresh cracked Black Pepper

In a small bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, mustard, garlic, lemon juice and red pepper flakes until it is well mixed. Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly.

Grate the carrots. Stack chard leaves and roll them up tight. Slice the leaves widthwise into narrow pieces to create long thin strips. Slice through the length to make smaller strips. Do the same with the basil and then finely chop the Cilantro.

Lay the carrots, chard and sprouts out in tight rows lengthwise on your collard leaf. Add another tight, thin row of herbs. Fold one side of your collard in and begin to roll. Pull your vegetables in close as you roll to keep it tight. Once it is rolled, take a very sharp knife and cut them into “sushi rolls.” Gently pierce the collard with your skewer and drive it through the roll to hold it all together. The skewer then becomes your utensil for serving and dipping. Serve with the aioli, and enjoy with a refreshing rose fennel tea.

Vegan Sushi

vegan sushi-collard rolls

Since summer is Pitta season, raw food is generally okay at lunchtime when our digestive fires are strongest. My digestion still needs help, though, with raw food in any season, thus the mustard, lemon, garlic, and red pepper as digestive aids. Here are some suggestions to tailor this meal according to your own digestive strength ~

Vata: Lightly sauté the carrot and greens with minced ginger and a dash of Tamari to soften. Replace red pepper with a sprinkle of powdered ginger in the aioli.
Pitta: Omit the garlic and red pepper in the aioli. Try fennel powder instead, adding small amounts at first and increasing to taste.
Kapha: Use both fresh and powdered garlic and be generous with the red and black pepper. You might enjoy ginger tea with your meal, or chew on a stick of ginger soaked in lemon just prior to lunch.

raw vegan sushi-aioli dipping sauce

I loved your comments on my last post on rice. You shared so much of your heart, and often your family history. Since it is such fun to hear from you and to give, I’ve decided to make this the summer of giveaways. This time it is a book – Chef AJ’s Unprocessed with over 100 healthy and gluten-free recipes. Just comment below and let us know what you are loving for summer meals, and we will randomly pick a name to receive it.

Thank you & Namaste!

Eat Rice: An Imperial Dish

imperial rice

In my early twenties I had a friend whose motto was “Eat Rice.” After having lived and travelled through Asia, he was convinced that rice is not only the key to physical and emotional wellbeing, but that rice-eating societies are more peaceful. His theory was: Eat rice for peace.

Later, he opened a Thai restaurant in SoHo, in New York City. Its name, Kin Khao, means “eat rice.”  It was a fabulously successful restaurant; so much so, that he opened two more Asian restaurants, Kelley & Ping and Bop, each more successful than the last – and all with rice, and rice culture, at their base.

healing rice

Two summers ago, while visiting my friend Phoebe at her family’s home on Lake Como, one of the children woke up one morning feeling under the weather. Suddenly, from the women there was a chorus of “Mangia bianco!” Or was it “Manga in bianco”? Either way, this young girl, knowingly repeated, “Devo mangiare in bianco.”

Now, I had the good fortune to live in Italy and learn the language at one immensely beautiful time in my life. But I didn’t know what they were talking about. Phoebe explained, “The Italians believe that when you are sick, you should only consume foods that are white, as in rice, chicken, white fish, an apple, plain crackers or bread.”

This article (in Italian) explains it in detail, with an accompanying photo that cites: Riso, classico esempio di piatto per la dieta in bianco; or “Rice, a classic example of a meal according to the white diet.”

ariven rice

Then, last month my husband and I were teaching at Shakti Fest. I love to meet people there and learn about their reasons for attending. It usually reveals the passion of their heart, and causes a sweet soul exchange. This year, I visited with an Indian sage named Nandhi who surprised me with his vision for a more compassionate world.

Did you know that once cows are past child-bearing years they are no longer “useful” for their milk and often then tossed on the streets in India? (I don’t know what we do with them here. I shudder to think.)

Nandhi and a sustainable farming engineer friend of his have begun a collective in India,  where they gather these olds cows and allow them to roam free on the pasture. Not only is it a great humanitarian act, it is beneficial to the farm, as cow dung is one of the best fertilizers there is!

rishikesh cow

Nandhi’s project is called Ariven. The “Ariven Vision” creates, assists and collaborates to build global sanctuaries for retired animals, cows and oxen in particular. Each sanctuary grows biodynamic organic ‘intelligent’ vegetarian food while sharing its produce with the hungry. Their goal is to emulate this full-cycle sustainability for farms, while feeding hungry people worldwide. And it all has to do with rice!

Ariven’s crop is Imperial Rice. According to their website, “Around 1,500 years ago, during the rule of the Chera and Chola dynasties of Southern India, Imperial Rice was considered a royal food exclusive only to the royal family. And now it is available to all.”

So, maybe rice really is a way to peace.

rice and yogurt

rice bowl with asparagus

Rice is, of course partners well with any vegetable, and all legumes. Combining rice, beans and greens is a great fortifying/detoxifying dish, as all ancient people knew. But rice on its own or with a bit of yogurt makes a light, satisfying, anytime meal. You can have it for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and especially any time you are focused on healing, or just want to give your digestive system a rest.

Healing Rice

Rice, 1 cup
Yogurt, half a cup
Black Pepper, fresh cracked to taste
Mint, a handful, torn

Optional: a handful of sesame seeds

Make the rice according to directions on the packet. Once it is done, spoon your serving into a bowl. Stir in the yogurt, crack some fresh pepper over it, add sesame  seeds optionally, and sprinkle with fresh mint. Tuck in and enjoy slowly.

rice bowl - healing foods

“White food” is usually not bursting with flavors. Instead it is calming. It satisfies the body’s need for nurturance, while going easy on digestion. Rice, in particular, has loads of B vitamins, along with magnesium, manganese, and selenium, so it is calming not just to taste but it’s calming to the mind, nervous system, an upset belly, and maybe, just maybe, an entire organism, even a community, a society, a world?

Rice is considered by Ayurveda to be excellent for Pitta Dosha, as it is cooling (remineralizing). It is also great for Vata Dosha as it is considered one of the prime sweet tastes, and therefore grounding, tonifiying, stabilizing.

People have been eating rice for thousands of years. It is a healing, healthy, nourishing grain. Even Paleo people ate rice, which has been demonstrated by archaeologists who have discovered tools for grinding and cooking. I have rice about once a week. I like it as a light, digestible source of energy – which is one of the reasons it is so good when you are sick.

Curious about rice as a healing food? Dr. Linda Kennedy’s Top 10 Health Benefits of Rice is a quick overview. Confused about rice? Wondering about White v. Brown? Here Ryan Andrews, RD explains.

Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 11.06.49 PM

eat rice

I have 2 bags of Ariven Imperial Rice, and will mail one each to two commenters randomly picked from below. So tell me, do you like rice? If so, why? What is your favorite rice dish?

Since every purchase of Ariven Imperial Rice supports the Ariven Community, an NPO with a vision for global sanctuaries for retired work animals and sustainable farming globally, I wish I could send one bag to each of you. But if you do believe in rice, peace and a world united by sustainable living practices, I invite you to write Ariven and ask for a sample. Or, join us at Bhakti Fest in Joshua Tree this September to pick up a free bag at their booth and learn for yourself about the Ariven vision. It is a beautiful dream of a world where nourishment, bounty and peace prevail, for all.

Eat Rice? Make peace. Jai Ma!

Mother’s Nourishment: Recipes and Relief

Joshua Tree
Photo: Juliet Charvet for National Geographic

My husband and I are heading now to Joshua Tree for the annual spring time Yoga festival lovingly known as Shakti Fest. It is Bhakti Fest for lovers of Shakti, and it is raining out there. In southern California rain is a godsend, so we will open to receive those showers, that grace from heaven, and we will sing and dance and do Yoga in the rain.

What is Shakti?

Simply, it is a word that means power. In Yoga, we understand it as the power of life, the power of creation, the power of creative intelligence, the power of beauty, the power of love. Shakti in the yogic lexicon means the divine feminine aspect of consciousness that is the womb of all potentially, the cause of all existence, the beauty that inspires us to come fully alive, the generative and regenerative powers that heal, renew, transform, and the love that holds it all together.

In that vein, I wanted to share with you some of the things that have inspired me this week vis-à-vis mothers, divine mother, and divine love.

Photo: Dillon TIsdel for Oh Holy Basil
Photo: Dillon Tisdel for Oh Holy Basil

Dillon Tisdel at Oh Holy Basil wrote a lovely little essay about the joys of being a mother for mother’s day last weekend and included a recipe for gorgeous Raspberry Lemon Spelt (vegan) Scones.

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Photo: Andrea Bemis, Dishing Up the Dirt

Photo by Andrea Bemis, Dishing Up the Dirt
Both Photos by Andrea Bemis, Dishing Up the Dirt

Andrea Bemis of Dishing up the Dirt writes about life on the farm in the Pacifc Northwest. It is a charming blog, and her Mother’s Day post with recipes for a Spring brunch lived up to her usual charm.

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carrot-cake-pancake-0669
Photo: Richa Hingle, Vegan Richa

Richa Hingle of Vegan Richa is just about to bring to the world a beautiful recipe book on The Indian Kitchen dedicated to whole food, plant-based living. Her Mother’s Day post was exotic, colorful and spicy.

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Spring Pastel Cherry Tree, Getty Images
Spring Pastel Cherry Tree, Getty Images

My friend Dawna Matthews wrote a beautiful article called Mothering Ourselves – Self Care for Moms for the mega wonderful Green-Mom website, because mothers are the source and the gateway for wellness in the family, so you have to love and nurture yourself, Mama’s.

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Dr. Sarita Shrestha in Nepal
Dr. Sarita Shrestha in Nepal

A giant in the world of Ayurveda is the Nepali OB/Gyn Dr. Sarita Shrestha, whose clinics in the rural villages of Nepal offer medical support to those who otherwise would go without. Known as the “compassionate Mother of Ayurveda” Dr. Shrestha is now actively in the mountains serving her people to heal, renew, and rebuild. If you would like to help, please see my friend Madhavi Rathod’s fundraising page for Dr. Shrestha’s Nepal Earthquake Relief.

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Mother's Day Recipes

Finally, to my own mother and grandmother, whose love is boundless – I am eternally grateful for your example and your “Shakti.” These are the people to whom we should build shrines, for they quietly go about the world pouring love, kindness, forgiveness, encouragement, and hope.

Thank you to all of you who mother the world with your love!

Jai Ma! 

Spring in a Bowl: A Simple Six-piece Salad

Spring Salad

There are so many reasons to love coming home after a long trip away. There’s the smell of home, something distinct and only yours. There’s looking into the eyes of the ones you love, listening to their stories and hearing their voices more clear and dear than ever. Being able to see their gestures and the habits that make them so unique, none of which can be conveyed by a phone call. There’s being able to touch the things so familiar, yet so everyday you forgot while you were gone that this is the architecture of your life, and while it may be plain, it is good, and it is where you find your belonging. And then of course there’s those simple, but oh my god I am so grateful things like being able to brush your teeth with tap water without thinking, to sleep on your own pillow, and to eat something raw…

So while I probably should be sharing a healthy meal from India’s seemingly infinite pantry, or a special culinary exotica from my travels east and west, my greatest joy today is the simple joy of Spring as it blooms in my little corner of the world right here, right now, offering these raw, fresh delights.

six ingredient salad

A Simple Six Ingredient Salad

Salad
Arugula, 1 hefty handful
Microgreens (kale, cilantro, radish sprouts), 2 handfuls
Fresh Garden Peas, 1 handful of fresh pods
Cherry Tomatoes, 1 handful
Spring Onion, 1-2 bulbs
Sunflower Seeds, 1-2 handfuls

Creamy Curried Lemony Dill Dressing
Tofu, 1/2 a block (about a cup)
Garlic, 1 clove (more if you are Kapha)
Lemon, juiced
Dill, 1/2 to 1 scant teaspoon
Curry powder, 1/4 teaspoon (more if you like spice)
Olive Oil, about 1 teaspoon
Fresh Cracked Black Pepper, to taste

Method
Rinse and pat dry your greens. Add to a salad bowl. Pinch your pea pods to open them, then loosen each pea with your finger to release them into your salad bowl. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half, and the spring onion into thin rounds. Add the tomatoes and onions to your salad.

Put the tofu and garlic into a small electric bender and blend until the tofu is creamy and the garlic is completely mashed. Cut your lemon in half and squeeze in the juice. Add the dill and curry powder and mix well. Drizzle in the olive oil and just lightly pulse a few times. Crack the pepper in and just light stir with a spatula. Taste and adjust lemon, spices, and add, maybe maybe, a pinch of salt. Use the spatula to pour the dressing over the salad. The consistency will be thick, but once tossed, the greens, tomatoes, and peas will add their moisture to give it a beautiful balance between creamy and crunchy, soft and snappy, soothing and fresh.

Garnish with a generous helping of sunflower seeds, and a sprig of fresh rosemary.

Because we are Spring Cleansing, I also tossed into the salad a handful of fresh cilantro. I love treating mint, cilantro, parsley as if they are more than garnish, but leaves with their own rightful place in the salad.

Salads are usually eaten after the main meal in Ayurveda, much like in Italy and France. We’ve been enjoying it following a bowl of kichari, lentils or spring saag. I hope you enjoy it with whatever gives you the most Spring in your heart.

spring salad

How are you celebrating Spring? What are your favorite foods and flavors these days? I’d love to hear, and to celebrate you with a gift of Spring from my friend Tiziana Boccaletti who makes the most delightful self-care elixirs in her AromaVedic apothecary. This Spring she has rose, calendula, chamomile… Because I love her, I love her artistry with florals, and I love you, I am offering to send one directly to you, or one of the commenters below, in time for Mother’s Day.

May you be eternally blessed by the light of the sun, and the bounty of our beautiful mother earth. Namaste! 

Kichari Burger

winter kichari I am often asked how to make Ayurvedic meals appealing to the whole family. First, I am very fortunate that my family enjoys eating well, and by that I mean eating whole, healthy foods. But it is true that our Ayurvedic staple, kichari (click the link if you are not sure what that is), hasn’t always been popular with the younger ones.

kich burrito Kichari Burrito

Early on, I would spoon kichari into a wrap with salsa, a bit of yogurt and cilantro, and we’d call it a burrito. That worked, although I can’t say it was our most popular family fare.

Recently, in the midst of juggling a few things, I found myself wanting to prepare a special meal for a sick friend who was staying with us. We’d had kichari the evening before, and since I didn’t have time to make anything new, decided instead to spruce up what we had left.

This was the result – a Kichari burger that has now become a family favorite.
kichari slider stamped

To make it, you start with your favorite kichari recipe. I have lots around this site – a basic, all purpose kichari recipe here, a more elaborate one on that same page, an autumn kichari here, a winter kichari here, a summer kichari here, and for good measure below I offer you one more – because I want to share the amazing grace that is Robyn Field, and to share her favorite kichari as it is such a classic.

Part 1

If you already have a favorite kichari recipe, skip to part 2. 

Robyn Field’s Classic Kichari

Step 1 

3 & 1/3 c water
1/3 c split mung bean
1/3 c red lentils
1/3 c basmati rice
1 t turmeric
12 curry leaves
1 t crushed fresh ginger

Step 2
1/2 t cumin seeds
1/2 t coriander seeds
5 peppercorns

Step 3
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 medium zucchini, chopped
2 kale leaves, thinly sliced
1/4 t rock salt

Step 4
1 T ghee
1/2 t cumin seeds

Step 5
1/3 c fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 lemon
1/4 lime

Method
1. Bring water to a boil in a pot. Add mung beans, lentils, rice, turmeric, curry leaves and fresh ginger. Once it returns to a boil reduce heat and simmer.

  1. Grind seeds in a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle. Add 1 teaspoon of the mix to the kichari.

  2. Add carrots zucchini, kale and salt. Cook uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes until the lentils are tender and the mixture resembles a thick porridge. Stir occasionally. Add more water if needed.

  3. Heat ghee in a skillet. Add 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds and fry for 30 seconds. Add the rest of the ground spices then immediately add a bit of the kichari to prevent it from burning and stir well. Add the spice fry to the pot of kichari and stir.

  4. Serve with lemon and lime juice, garnished with cilantro. Variation: Add fresh chili peppers and ginger in step 4 for a spicier version. 

kichari burger Part 2 Kichari “Burgers”
You could also call these sliders, and serve them at parties, or over salad for an elegant lunch. You pick the shape, and ultimately what to call them – because a rose may be a rose by any other name, but when it comes to feeding children (and fussy grown-ups), what’s in a name may make all the difference.

Ingredients
2 c your favorite kichari
1-2 T psyllium (husks or ground, either)
1 T nutritional yeast, optional
1 T ghee garlic powder to taste
optional: 1 egg

Method
Stir the psyllium and optionally the nutritional yeast with the kichari in a mixing bowl and mix well, ideally with your own clean hands. If you eat eggs, beat one egg and lightly stir it in. It will give your burger and better hold, and a crispier, golden edge. But strictly speaking, Ayurveda does not like us to mix our proteins

Melt the ghee in a saucepan on medium high. Sprinkle in the garlic powder according to your own taste, swirl the pan. Take a small handful of kichari mixture, pat it into a ball, then press to flatten. Place in your saucepan and cook until it browns. Turn it over and cover now while it browns on the second side.

Since there is no egg and the kichari is cooked, it is not essential you “cook it all the way through,” but I cover it to be sure it heats all the way through. vegan burger Raita Dipping Sauce
1/2 c yogurt (make your own)
1/2 small cucumber (persian are best), chopped small
3-4 spring onions, chopped 1 bunch of chives, chopped
1 bunch dill, chopped
1 small bunch cilantro or parsley, or a bit of both, chopped
Pink salt & fresh cracked pepper, to taste

Stir everything together. Season to taste.

I served these on a slice of roasted beet and roasted sweet potato, ladled with the dipping sauce, and a side of curried mayo (1 t curry powder to 3 T vegan mayo) for vibrant color and flavor.

raita and chutney In the Springtime, Kichari is an essential part of a detoxifying cleanse. I invite you to join me for my upcoming 10 day Spring Cleanse with a 10 day meal plan, nourishing cleansing recipes, as well as Ayurvedic self-care and guidance, coaching, daily motivational emails, group phone-ins and group online support starting April 20th. For one of you lucky commenters, we will (randomly) pick someone to give the Cleanse for free.

So tell us, how do you use your creativity to keep your family eating well? I look forward to hearing.

Namaste! 

kichari vegan burger