Food Therapy: Healing Kichari

Healing Touch

This past weekend we taught the first of three Intensives in our long-awaited ~ at least long-awaited by us ~ 100-hour Vedic Yoga Therapy Training. I say “long-awaited” because Yoga-as-therapy is what we do. Both my husband and I enjoy a deeply passionate life thanks to Yoga. But more than that, we survived because of Yoga. So you’d think a “Yoga Survivors” training of sorts is where we’d begin.

Garden Practice

We have had the intention of doing this from the very start. Ten years on, we are just getting to it now. But that’s okay. Because along the way, healing continues to occur. So much so that by this weekend, teaching was natural and spontaneous. It flowed. Amazing people showed up. Amazing things happened. There were flashes of insight, deep connections, rippling waves of relief and release. We laughed. We cried. We touched, moved, breathed, and we were touched, moved and inspired by our students and their courage.

Soul Brothers

Something happens that could never have been planned and it becomes a whole lot larger than the sum of its parts. We feel ourselves more as witness than teacher, aware of the unfolding of a perfection we cannot name, willing players in service to a healing force invisible but, at times like these, immensely tangible.

It is quiet work, and very deeply rewarding.

Twisting into Bliss

So what do you eat on a weekend devoted to the Healing Arts when you work from 7 am to 5pm and have a house full of students?

Why, Kichari, of course.

Kichari with Oregano Flowers

Kichari is the most healing of foods, not to mention whole-body delicious. It is warm, rich, hearty and grounding: delightfully balancing in Fall. It is so healing, in fact, that it becomes Ayurveda’s Autumn Fast for those wanting a seasonal Detox.

I simply cannot say enough about it: Kichari is cleansing. Kichari is tonifying. Kichari is nurturing. Kichari is gentle to sensitive tummies. Kichari is loving, warm assurance on cold, rainy days like today. Kichari is a family favorite. Kichari is so important to Ayurveda that it is featured all over this Blog. Kichari might even be called the star of Food: A Love Story.

Yum!

This past Sunday, I made it first by melting ghee and sautéing a spoonful of Autumn Masala, a spice mixture from my “Dancing Plums” collection which is basically ginger, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, ajwan, and sesame seed.  Towards the end, I grated one carrot and half a zucchini, tossing them into the pot for the last ten minutes of cooking. Just before serving, I went to the garden and cut a few stalks of oregano, placing them, flowers and all, on top of the kichari once ladled into bowls.

I put it all together in ten minutes before everyone arrived, and kept it warm in our slow cooker. But it can be made any morning before work and kept until lunchtime in a thermos. You can even cook it in a thermos. Just toss in the ingredients, add boiling water, stir and seal. Let it stew at least four hours and by lunchtime you will have a home-cooked, healthy, hot meal.

Nourishing, Wholesome Delight

Again, there are a number of recipes for Kichari here on this Blog. You will find two on the Basics page, another one here and a great video demonstration, by the totally adorable Kate Lumsden making Kichari in her kitchen.

In Ayurveda there is a saying, “Food is sensory. Digestion is Divine.” Both a sumptuous symphony of sensory delights and divinely digestible, this healing dish is a sacred blessing.

Vedic Healers in Training

To all healers everywhere and all who are healing, I send Love and a great, big Thank You!  

Namaste ~ 

I invite you to celebrate Urban Food & Gourmet’s Grand Opening with Ayurvedic Herbal Treats and Freedom Pies

Amanda DeWitt @ the newly opened Urban Food & Gourmet

Have you heard of Urban Food & Gourmet?

It is a new South Park Shop & Deli for California Creatives, Modern Peace Warriors, Radiant Lighthouses like you. Dedicated to tickling your palate, feeding your fires, sweetly singing your body electric and levitating your heart, it is run by the amazingly talented Amanda DeWitt who has poured her heart into this sumptuous place.

Offering unique, healthy, often artisanal and organic, delightful food, Amanda is devoted to Gluten-free “Grab and Go” items to keep life effortless for Urban Angels with appetites.

Last May Amanda invited me to contribute to this creative venture, so I’ve spent the summer concocting nourishing delights from my own kitchen. We call the collection Dancing Plums, because, yes, sugar plum fairies come to life and dance their dreams into being in the form of sweet, herbal, I-Love-You edibles.

Maha Shakti Detox Protein Shake Powder is a whole meal in a glass

Expanding on Amanda’s Circle of foodly Compassion, Dancing Plums’ creations are, or offer alternatives that are, gluten, dairy and sugar free, but which are mostly devoted to the Ayurvedic traditions.

There is the Maha Shakti Detox Protein Powder in Chocolate or Vanilla, with Grass-fed, Organic Whey or Organic Vegan Protein and loads of good-for-you herbs, Omega’s, greens, vitamins and minerals; my Rejuve Jam, based on recipes for the All-Star Ayurvedic Health Tonic Chyavanprash and inspired by my 97 year old grandmother who taught me to make jam from the berries we’d pick in the morning; the maha-comforting, mega-healing Kichari in an easy-to-make, take-home “Kit” of Organic Split Mung Beans and Organic Brown Basmati Rice; Seasonal Masalas to give you the essential spices medical authorities now list as Super Foods; and Brahmi Bark, a chocolate “Smart Bar” for mind-enhancing restoration in one sweet bite.

Rejuve Jam trips the inner light fantastic

Tomorrow is the Grand Opening of Urban Food & Gourmet and these are the details ~

Noon to 8pm, Saturday, September 10th, Urban Food & Gourmet at 1947 Fern St, 92102. I will be there from about 1 to 3 pm, but there will be great people and extraordinary food all afternoon and evening.

When I get there I’ll have samples of my various “Dancing Plums Ayurvedic Specialties,”  including a couple of Moksha Pies (Moksha, you will remember, means Freedom and these are gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, bake-free and mind-liberatingly extraordinary pies). So it would be utterly delicious to see you there.

To give folks a taste of the Maha Shakti Detox Protein formula, I’ll be mixing it into a Date Shake, which tastes like Heaven. Or Love. Or Heaven in Love with You.

Here is the recipe ~

Date Shake
2 Servings

4 Dates
1 Banana
1 tablespoon Maha Shakti Powder
1 cup Coconut Milk (Apple Cider is also good)

Blend all the ingredients until smooth. Add more Coconut Milk or dilute with Coconut Water if you like a thinner blend. Drink slowly and savor.

It makes a great breakfast, dessert or after-school snack. Thankfully it has a huge nutritional impact because some days it’s the only thing I fancy.

With Amanda in front of the Dancing Plums shelves at Urban Food & Gourmet ~

I like this article on Amanda and her motivation for opening this store. It really is a gift to our community ~ as are you! Let us know if there are other ways we can help nourish that shiny light of yours. 

Namaste! 

What’s Your Dosha?

Wind, Fire, Water are the Three Dynamic Elements Governing Existence

Are you air, fire or water? Is your best season Autumn, Winter, Spring or Summer? Are you more dynamic, focused, or nurturing?

Ayurveda sees our bodies as microcosms of the macrocosm – the universe within each being. This means you, me, everyone. We are all, all living beings, comprised of the five elements of the universe ~ space, air, fire, water and earth, animated by Mahat, a deep inner intelligence often called the Soul.

These elements, in their biological form, combine to create Doshas, which you can think of as an energy or force. There are three Doshas: Vata is made up of a combination of air and space ~ think of it as wind; Pitta is a combination of fire and water ~ think heat; and Kapha is water with earth, so it is the most stable.

Because we have all of the five elements of the universe in our being, we have each of the Doshas as well. But each of us is born with a unique, individual balance of these Doshas. That innate natural balance is called Prakriti, which is the unique combination of nature’s energies that determines your body type and personality.

Air can be gentle and refreshing, or strong and violent ~

Given that Prakriti is your inherent, unique, individual mind-body profile and Dosha is your energy imbalance, you can have a Vata, Pitta or Kapha Prakriti, but an entirely different Dosha at any given time. In other words, you can be Kapha, with a Vata imbalance. Or Pitta with a Kapha imbalance. It sounds confusing at first, but once you understand, a simple and elegant logic is revealed.

Since our health and well-being relies on balanced energies ~ stabilizing, strengthening and harmonizing our vital forces ~ in Ayurveda we look to the state of your Prakriti, your stable, balanced nature, and the play of Doshas, the fluctuating, dynamic energies, to determine wellness.

So how do you learn what Prakriti/Dosha you are?

Prakriti and Dosha Questionnaires and Quizzes abound, but the quickest way to determine yours is to consider your skin, sleep and digestion. Ask yourself the following ~

Fire is the principle of conversion without which there would be no life, no world, no existence

Skin
Is your skin usually dry?
Is it prone to redness, break-outs, itchiness or rashes?
Is it milky, thick, moist, with large pores?

Sleep
Are you challenged in falling asleep at night, restless, worried, even occasionally  insomniac?
Do you sleep easily, get up easily but often wake in the middle of the night?
Do you “sleep like a log” and enjoy staying in bed in the mornings?

Digestive Fire
Is your your metabolism quick but digestion is sensitive with occasional constipation or gas?
Is your appetite regular and strong, making you fierce if you don’t eat?
Is your appetite sluggish, especially in the morning, with metabolism slow?

The first question in each set above represents Vata. If you answered “Yes” to two or three of the first questions, then it is likely that Vata is your nature. The second question in each set represents Pitta and the third, Kapha. If you are still not sure, or want more detail, you can take my Dosha Test here.

Water gives us cohesion, stability, nourishment and refreshment

Like Doshas, the seasons move energetically, too, which is why it is so important to eat seasonally ~ to balance the doshic impact of your environment. Spring is Kapha, when Water dominates and combines with earth to make mud, or heavy, cloudy, foggy days. Summer is Pitta when heat, or the Fire element is strongest. Late Autumn into Winter is Vata, when the colder winds clear the trees of their leaves, creating more space for new life later to come.

Nature is always changing. At the same time, nature is always compensating for that change by offering foods that balance the energetic shifts, the Doshas, as they move seasonally.

Therefore in the Spring, we eat light and focus on detoxification. In the Summer we eat juicy, refreshing, cooling foods and in the Autumn we ground and strengthen with Autumn’s harvest of root vegetables, grains, warm soups, stews and herbal teas.

The Play of Elements

Throughout this Blog you will find Seasonal Recipes to illustrate nature’s bountiful wisdom. But many of you have asked me to write up ideas for a Whole Day of Meals Specific to Each Dosha.

This is daunting, but important, so I am going to break it down season by season, and post for the relevant season, hoping that you will enjoy getting the information you need when it’s most timely.

Since it is still gloriously Summer, I’ll start here, with A Day of Meals for Summer Season.

Beets, Carrots, Zucchini & Sprouts: Grated, Dressed and Ready to be Wrapped for Lunch

Breakfast ~ Green Smoothie, or Whole Grain Toast with Chyvanprash, or fresh fruit.

Morning Snack ~ Snacks are not essential but summer’s energy burns quick, often burning up the morning meal well before lunchtime. To keep that Pitta calm, stoke the fires with a piece of fruit or a frothy, blended juice of green veggies. You will feel that roaring heat mellow to a sweet purr in no time.

Lunch ~ Summer is the season and lunch is the time to go raw. I love a Veggie Wrap with grated carrots, zucchini, sliced cucumber, avocado, sprouts, lemon juice and a dash of of olive oil for dressing, seasoned with a sprinkling of fresh dill, mint or cilantro, and served with a side of Heidi Swanson’s Summer Corn Salad.

Afternoon Snack ~ Again, snacks aren’t essential or even ideal for most of us. We should arrive at a moment where we feel hungry between meals. But snacks can be very helpful when Pitta fires rage. Be prepared with Fresh Pea Hummus & Flaxseed Crackers, or Guacamole with a fresh Tortilla roll, a Coconut Banana Smoothie, a handful of fresh-picked vegetables plain or juiced, a handful of sprouts, Almonds or Sunflower Seeds, or even a slice of this delicious Live Coconut Pie, or this outrageous, Raw Chocolate Pudding that I wrote about last week.

Dinner ~ Grilled Vegetables with Quinoa; Cilantro Pesto Pasta with Broccolini and a Seasonal Salad; a warm, not hot, bowl of Beans & Greens; a room temperature soup of your favorite vegetables; or a simple meal of slow-cooked Kichari.

This is also a great time of year for a short Juice Fast. Try juicing for 3-5 days to deeply cleanse and throughly feed your body’s tissues. It helps reset your tastes to the singularly pure and healthy, so it is a nourishing way to turn bad habits to good.

Summer is really the easiest time of year for meals because most of your food is just hanging off the tree or vine seducing you with its vibrant color, ripe aroma, juicy flavor. Sweet and delicious, nature wants to nourish you, please you, excite you, love you, care for you.

What is your favorite Summer Meal?

Heaven’s Banquet by Miriam Kasin Hospodar

I’ve mentioned it before, but my favorite Ayurvedic cookbook is Eat Taste Heal.  Another one I love for its variety is Heaven’s Banquet by Miriam Kasin Hospoda, above.

Lisa Coffey is an American Ayurvedi who has been immensely creative in her expression of the Ayurvedic science. I borrowed the title of this article from one of her books, What’s Your Dosha, Baby?  She also has a lively website where you can play with quizzes on your Dosha and Doshic relationship compatibility.

It is all about Balance!

 May your food, breath and thoughts bring balance so your true light can shine.

Namaste!

~

Cucumber Cool

It was that perfect summer day: sunny, clear and hot enough to urge you to the beach, windy enough to get you offshore fast on a Hobie Cat soaring across breezy waters toward the promise of endless horizon.

The sailboat had been waiting on the beach along with a large, extended family who had come from everywhere it seemed to celebrate on this gorgeous summer Saturday. We were celebrating not just the birth of the nation collectively, but privately and more importantly, the birth of our tribe’s matriarch, known affectionately as Mom, or Nana ~ or, frankly, Wonder Woman.

After sailing, there’s a winding shoreline to wander, a rustic harbor to explore by kayak, sandcastles to build, swimming with a sister or brother, splashing with a niece, even visits with friends who stop by to say hello. With all this joy and play and beauty and delight and after all what is summer for if not this, it is mid-afternoon before you suddenly realize it would have been a good idea to wear a hat, or sunscreen, or, at least, to have paused a little longer in the shade.

The only solution for cooling off at this point is to jump back in the water, which is chilly, or go out again for a sail. But both options hold you under the broil of the sun, and you’re beginning to wonder if that rising smell of roasting flesh is coming from a nearby barbecue or your own burning shoulders!

So you head home early and prepare for the Great Family Homecoming by mixing up an icy pitcher of Cucumber Cooler. A tonic to refresh and relieve, this drink props you back up after too much play, or heat, or effort has you buckled at the knees, and reassuringly reminds you that Mother Nature, with her cool, sweet summer bounty, has already anticipated all your needs.

Cucumber Cooler
Serves 2 

1/2 medium Cucumber, seeded and peeled
1 Lime, juiced
5 Mint leaves
1 pinch Himalayan salt
1 cup water
1-2 ice cubes

Put all the ingredients into a blender and mix on high until it is completely puréed. Pour into glasses, garnish with a mint leaf and serve.

The Benefits ~

Electrolyte drinks containing sodium and potassium salts replenish the body’s water and electrolyte levels after dehydration. With an impressive amount of water (about 96%) that is naturally distilled, making it superior to ordinary water, and loaded with potassium, cucumbers are an important ingredient for summer rehydration.

Himalayan Crystal Salt delivers a healthy form of pure, unadulterated sodium with an amazing array of important trace minerals and elements including calcium, magnesium and potassium that regulate body fluids and replenish your supply of electrolytes whenever you sweat heavily.

Have you ever rested with slices of cucumber over your eyes?  It has been found that the  caffeic acid in this vegetable helps to prevent water retention, making cucumbers a great snack for weight loss, diabetes management, or to be applied topically to reduce puffy and swollen eyes.

In fact, cucumbers contain a number of important temperature-regulating minerals, including sulfur, silicone and silica which strengthen the body’s connective tissues, muscles, tendons, hair, ligaments, nails, cartilage, and bone – vital for healthy skin.

Speaking of skin, in Ayurveda there is a saying that if you want healthy skin, eat the skin of your fruits and vegetables. In addition to the youthful, glow-producing trace minerals inside the cucumber, its skin carries a high percentage of vitamin A and vitamin C.

With its high alkalinity, cucumbers are one of the ultimate Pitta-reducing foods ~ decreasing inflammation, high blood pressure, sore throat and acne; its peel can be used to relieve sunburn and mild skin irritations, similar to aloe vera; and studies have shown that when eaten regularly, cucumbers regulate uric acid, helping to prevent certain kidney or bladder stones and rheumatoid diseases like arthritis.

Perhaps best of all, since most cancers thrive in acidic environments, cucumber’s high alkalinity is being studied for its potential in avoiding cancer.

Cucumber Water

The other thing I like to do on warm summer days is to simply fill a pitcher with water, add 8-10 slices of cucumber, 5-6 slices of lime, 2-3 sprigs of mint, a dash of Himalayan Salt and a tiny pinch of Succanat (pure evaporated cane sugar). If you leave it overnight in the refrigerator the water becomes infused with the perfume of cucumber and mint, and tastes like everything the body has ever wanted.

Creamy, crunchy, juicy, wrapped in deep green and bursting with goodness, Cucumber is definitely summer cool.

They are also great fun to grow ~ and cukes from your own garden retain the taste of your terroir, while teaching great life lessons on mortality and immortality, attachment and non-attachment ~ as versed 5,000 years ago in the Maha Mrytunjaya Mantra.

Wishing you good health and a cool, refreshing, sweet summer.

Namaste! 

On Suzie’s Farm


A week ago, we took our Yoga Teacher Training to Suzie’s Organic Farm. Some 20 of us descended upon their 70 acres in the Tijuana River Valley where we were like bees to honey ~ Yogis abuzz in fields of bliss, busying ourselves in the bountiful, ambrosial bloom.

We began with Surya Namaskar, saluting the Sun as the prime giver of life, from a tiny knoll amidst rows of planted varieties. Breathing with the wind, aligning with nature, grounding into the earth’s aliveness, it was like Yoga inside a Gerard Manley Hopkins poem: Glory Be to God for Dappled Things ~ For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow… Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough.

Our Farm Tour Guide was Britta Turner, who has been working at Suzie’s since it began operations little more than two years ago. Britta began weeding in the troughs, back when she was still in college. Our 7th grader nodded knowingly. “Weeding helps with studies,” he whispered to me. “Reduces the stress.” Another reason for loving school gardens, I thought, with gratitude.

Britta

Britta is a bit of a celebrity in our local, urban farm movement. Beautiful, healthy, wonderful and wise, she is an organic Yogi who knows everything about local food ~ from heirloom to harvest, markets to meals. We are lucky to have her in our Yoga Training this year as she often arrives with gifts, and a gift from Britta is a waxy, sturdy box of dirty roots and gangly shoots. Yum.  To know her is to love her, for she is a true child of nature.

Romanescu Cauliflower

Our favorite visit was to the rows of Romanescu Cauliflower, otherwise known as Mandelbrot for its fractals that replicate to infinity. Breath-taking. The kids loved seeing math in nature, and suddenly Brassicas became their favorite food.

A Bouquet of Sugar Peas and Kale

But there was so much more ~ and Britta had us tasting everything! From red carrots to sweet snapping peas, spinach, collards, fennel, so many varieties of kale, all kinds of summer squash and even edible weeds, it was a banquet at nature’s fertile table.

Savoy Greens & Magenta Spreen

There were many delightful discoveries, too. Who knew, for instance, that the mangy-looking Savoy Green was as good as spinach or that the pretty weed with itchy leaves and spikes of dusty magenta is edible ~ tasty even? And everyone had to sample the Mustard Greens ~ the best example of how pungent Spring can make her greens. Hot Holy Detoxifying Mama!

Mustard Greens and Collard Streams

At home, I tossed those greens into a skillet where a bit of Garam Masala, fresh grated nutmeg, ghee and olive oil had already been warmed over a medium high flame. While that sautéed, I popped some fresh pasta into boiling water. Three minutes later I turned off the stove, poured onto the greens just enough coconut milk to coat, stirred to cover, then squeezed the juice of half a lemon all over the greens, and drained the pasta. Into the now empty but still warm pasta pot, I melted a spoonful of ghee and stirred in about a quarter cup of coconut milk, whisking in a handful of Nicolau Farm’s Herbed Goat Cheese and adding a dash of salt and pepper.

The drained pasta was returned to the pot and gently stirred in the sauce. Greens and pasta were then plated together side-by-side, so they would each have their moment of glory, and sprinkled with freshly grated nutmeg.

Suzie's Greens with Goat Cheese Pasta

Dinner was divine. No one said a word, though. We ate in silence, utterly absorbed in the tastes, the energy we could feel from food so fresh, the joy of the day summarized in the beauty on our plates, the miracle of it all.

Deep Yoga Mastery of Life 2011 Yogis at Suzie's Farm

Our day at the farm was Yoga in full bloom ~ Union with Divine Nature. Britta recommended we return for Volunteer Digs at Roots, an educational not-for-profit farm that is their partner and neighbor. We will definitely be back for that! If you are local, we invite you to join us Wednesdays and Saturdays, 2-5pm.

Thank you to Jamie LaMarche for the photographs of the Farm!

Namaste ~

Fennel Flower

An Apple Today


A client recently mentioned that she wants to do another cleanse. Grew up on junk food was the reason she gave. Makes sense, I thought. Every now and then a deep clearing of the digestive tract is good practice, especially since many of us eat more than we need and often not as well as we wish.

For this, I have just the thing: an Intestinal Cleanse adapted from Jeremy Safron’s delightful little book, The Raw Truth. But, first, I am concerned about something. Does our present culture encourage a certain yo-yo approach to eating? Binges, extreme fasts, indulge, detox..?

The best way we take care of ourselves is by sustaining good habits with regularity and consistency. Healthy, whole food not only nourishes us, but also detoxifies and cleanses our bodies. Digestive enzymes, soluble and insoluble fiber, protein, good flora, vitamins and minerals are all in vegetables, fruit, whole grains and legumes. All these bits and pieces that scientists try to pry out of food or synthesize in a lab, and that superstores sell as the next sexy thing, are already in nature’s pure whole food.

Before I commit to a cleanse I like to ask myself ~ Is an Intestinal Cleanse a healthy way to love myself? Is it needed? Is now the time to do it? Or, am I using it as a subtle form of punishment? A quiet act of self-flagellation?

Because women do use food, and diets, to hurt themselves. I certainly have ~ and would not want, in any way whatsoever, to encourage this.

Still, there are times when an intestinal cleanse is a good idea. Ayurveda suggests we do it annually each Spring. For such times, this apple-based drink is sweet and easy.

Click for Print Version

One final warning ~ Psyllium is habit-forming and should not be taken daily. It dries out the colon, increasing your need for it and creating a vicious cycle.  Therefore, use it only when necessary and repeat this kind of intestinal cleanse once every three months at the most.

For safe bowel regularity, try Triphala. It works by strengthening the colon, optimizing its function, and is not drying so can be taken daily. Still, it is always best to seek the advice of an Ayurvedic Practitioner.


The wisdom in your body knows what to do with the intelligence in nature’s food.  Trying to outsmart the body with one cleanse or dietary regime after another doesn’t work. Over-fussing with digestion, elimination and metabolism turns the body-wisdom off.

So eat what appeals to your body-wisdom. Eat when you are hungry. Eat warm foods in the morning and evening. Make lunch your biggest meal when the fire to digest is naturally ablaze. Eat what’s in season and align yourself with the beauty of nature, time, the earth’s spin, the cosmic churn. This will, in turn, create peace, harmony, abundance and ease in your life.

Food is more than just what you put in your mouth. It is the relationship you have with yourself, with life, with the world.

What kind of relationship do you want to have?

I invite you to make it sacred.

Namaste!

Spring Clean | Cilantro Detox Pesto

Imagine sunflowers floating on rafts on a pond. Then imagine that there are many ponds ~ sunflower rafts as far as your eye can see.

Then imagine these sunflowers are growing on rafts in ponds that surround the Chernobyl nuclear site in the Ukraine. Odd? Beautiful? Gesture of Peace?

If you attended my Spring Ayurveda Nutrition & Cooking Class, you’ll know about Mother Nature’s remarkable ability to cleanse, purify, renew and restore her own earth body ~ and our human bodies, too. My last post, “21 Day Challenge,” was dedicated to those gifts of the Earth that emerge in Springtime to naturally and very efficiently help us detoxify body and mind.

A field of blooming sunflowers in the Ukraine

But as talk these days turns to Japan’s nuclear problems and the prevailing westerlies carrying waste on the wind and  radioactivity with the rain, I think even more about this self-regulating, self-restorative, self-renewing intelligence of nature, and specifically about something my brother-in-law, Daniel Goldfarb, a soil restoration expert, told us recently about sunflowers.

In Chernobyl, floating rafts of sunflowers are being used to clean up water contaminated as a result of the 1986 disaster at their Nuclear Plant. Sunflowers remove up to 95% of the radioactivity below ground by pulling contaminants out of the water and up into their root system. This technique, known as phytoremediation, got its roots, so to speak, there in Chernobyl, where the sunflowers outperformed all expectations.

Sunflower Seeds & Soil

So, as an experiment, I sprouted sunflower seeds, tossed them liberally onto our garden, watered, mulched and waited.

In the meantime, we are eating copious amounts of sunflower seeds and sprouts ourselves, because, I wondered, if they remove radioactive toxins from the body of the earth, could they do the same for our human bodies?

I began researching this, looking at the western and the Ayurvedic literature, and along the way came across this recipe for a Sunflower Seed & Cilantro Pesto that harnesses not only sunflower power, but also cilantro for its super scour muscularity in eviscerating heavy metals and toxic waste.

Surprisingly, for something so green, so clean, so good for you ~ this is outrageously delicious.

Cilantro Pesto

In making this “Pesto” myself, I wanted to increase the fire element since greens and nuts can be hard to digest. To that end, I added ginger, asafoetida and a dash of cayenne.

I also wanted to be sure that the organs of elimination were well lubricated so toxins would definitely be removed and not just swished around the body, exchanging places and causing more damage. The original recipe had plenty of flaxseed oil to help with that but, unless you are Vegan, I suggest adding a spoonful of ghee because it both enkindles the digestive fire AND is mighty efficient at loosening toxins and carrying them away.

With Roasted Pumpkin Seeds and Sunflower Sprouts

If you tried it at my house last week, you tried a batch with three times too much flaxseed oil. Ech!  Try making this yourself with the correct proportions, as below. Or, come back over and I will make you a fresh batch. I want everyone to have some. It is Spring’s divine joy in every bite, so healing and so promising!

This is how I make it now ~

PLEASE NOTE: I now add 1 teaspoon chlorella to this recipe, because cilantro can mobilize more toxins then it can carry out of the body, and Chlorella is a potent intestinal toxin-absorbing agent necessary for efficient elimination.

Double Click for Print Version

The original recipe is a more scientifically named Coriander Chelation Pesto, and comes from the sweet souls at Essential Oils for Healing. This is how they describe its benefits ~

Delicious Chelation Pesto Recipe Removes Heavy Metals and Fallout Radiation from your Body

The main ingredient, Cilantro (aka: fresh coriander/Chinese parsley), is probably the most powerful natural chelating agent around. Besides being a renown culinary herb in Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern, and Mexican cuisines, Cilantro has a long 7000 year history as a medicinal herb. Both the fresh greenery & seeds are also resources of powerfully healing essential oils. Cilantro contains chemical compounds that bind to the heavy metals, loosening them from the tissues, blood and organs. Cilantro’s chemical compounds then aid transport of these harmful substances out of the body through channels of elimination.

This recipe combines cilantro with other ingredients that have a synergistic effect. They cleanse the tissues by increasing the urinary excretion of mercury, lead and aluminum. 

This great recipe is not only easy-to-make, but delicious on toast, baked potatoes and pasta.

Two teaspoons of this pesto daily for three weeks is purportedly enough to substantially clear these toxic metals from the body. It is recommended to repeat this cleanse as a preventative measure at least once a year for three weeks.


I like it generously spread on raw Flaxseed Crackers, which you can make at home.  Eat, Taste, Heal has a great recipe, only I find it easier to pick up a box of Savory FlackersLet me know what you think.  

To your Good Health ~ Namaste!


The 21 Day Challenge


We had our annual Spring Detox Workshop on Sunday, the day of the Spring Equinox, which is always a joyful way to begin the season. It is like a celebration of emergence ~ from the darkness of winter, from the deep interior, from the cave of the heart ~ into a world of light, to a communal dance in a human garden of blossoming radiance.

After circulating, stretching, compressing and twisting the body for two hours we settled into a deep restorative Yoga Nidra to extend the detoxification to mind and heart. By the end, thirty of us committed to keeping our minds pure by keeping the television off, and to keeping the heart alive by spending more time in nature.


We also committed to the annual Spring Detox 21 Day Challenge, which I have posted here. It is a simple plan for eating clean, natural, seasonal foods that help the body eliminate winter’s accumulation. We love company so if you would like to join us, please do. Just click the “Like” button below, or email me to let us know you are in.

Lately, with all the health-store, take-home boxes of Detox, many people tell me they are following a plan they bought. While I am sure that is helpful, I want to remind you that it can be easier. Spring is the time for internal cleansing. Nature knows that, and so provides at this time all the foods that best support detoxification. If you eat the harvest from your own, your neighbor’s, or your local farmer’s garden, you will naturally have a comfortable, nourishing cleanse.

Radishes and Ranunculi at the Farmer’s Market

It is hard to make money off that simple, potent truth, so it is not advertised. But liberating ourselves from commercially driven habits makes this Detox all the more empowering, and helps cleanse the mind and our beliefs, which is the beginning point for all true, enduring health.

So, let your food be your medicine. Allow nature to take care of you. After all, you are nature. Eating according to nature’s seasonal bounty stimulates the natural intelligence in you to adapt, heal, nourish, cleanse, revitalize and really come alive in this season of joy.

The 21 Day Challenge

Before you begin ~ it is always best to consult with an Ayurvedic professional to tailor your diet to your particular constitution. If you have a chronic illness, are very thin, or feel depleted, please consult your health-care professional before beginning any cleanse.

Ginger Tea

Drink warm water with fresh squeezed lemon juice first thing in the morning and throughout the day to increase cellular detoxification.

Eat fresh nourishing foods, including whole grains, beans and vegetables lightly cooked with small amounts of healthy oils such as olive oil, safflower oil, or ghee.

To stoke your digestive fire, sip ginger tea with your meals and spice your food with warm pungent herbs such as ginger, garlic, cinnamon, cardamom, clove, basil, oregano, pepper, and chilies.

Check out your local Farmer’s Market to see what is in season now. This is a great time to explore the immense variety of Spring vegetables and learn  delicious ways they can be prepared.

While at the Market, load up on everything green as Spring Greens are the most detoxifying of foods. Greens are bitter, astringent and, those that ripen in Spring are often fiery, pungent. They are easy and quick to cook and colorfully complement a bowl of beans for a slimming, yet strengthening, protein-packed, power lunch.

Sprouted Beans & Sunflower Greens at the Farmer’s Market yesterday

Include grains with your meals but lighten up with cereals like barley, millet (as in couscous), buckwheat groats, rye and quinoa. Barley is an excellent cleanser of the digestive system and urinary tract. Buckwheat is considered a “light grain,” but is actually a fruit, with more protein than any of the other “grains.”

A piece of fruit, warmed or at room temperature, makes a great snack. The citrus fruits now in season have enough sour taste to stoke the metabolic fires, while their bitter peel are loaded with anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory zest. You can grate the rind and whisk it into salad dressings or sprinkle over cooked greens.

Be sure to eat fruit on its own – one type at a time, an hour away from meals. Otherwise it ferments in the gut, jamming digestion and increasing the toxic load. On the other hand, cooked fruit, such as a Spiced Citrus Compote that marries the fruits of Spring, is easy on digestion, and even stimulates elimination in the morning. Cooking fresh fruit into your grains for breakfast, with a dash of cinnamon or cardamom, is a powerful, and delicious, way to start the day.

Spiced Citrus Compote with White Cardamom

Avoid meat, sugar, fried, processed, canned, frozen and microwaved foods. Reduce your intake of dairy products and heavy grains such as wheat, oats, rice. These foods decrease the metabolic fire, slow digestion and clog the circulatory channels.

Herbs

Aloe Juice: Aloe encourages elimination so drink half a glass first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. It is a great Spring tonic for its deep tissue cleanse, liver support and cellular rejuvenation.

Tulsi’s Spring Blossom

Tulsi: For congestion, heaviness, brain fog and the like, drink a cup of warm Tulsi Tea every day. I love Organic India not only for the quality of their teas, but also for the integrity and charitable nature of the company.

Dandelion: For liver detoxification drink Detox Tea in the evenings.  I love this tea for its copious amounts of dandelion root and other bitter herbs that somehow still tastes sweet, not to mention comforting.

Triphala: Triphala reduces Ama in the body restoring balance and optimal physiology. Because it strengthens the colon it is often used to encourage regularity. Take 2 tablets in the evening before bed. If there is Ama, Triphala can give detox reactions, in which case, reduce to one tablet only for a week and then resume the two daily.

21 Day Challenge Meal Suggestions

These are just ideas, not a fixed menu. Be playful. Work with what you find at the market. Get creative with color, texture, tastes and spices. Dance in the kitchen. Love your food. It tastes better that way.

Breakfast

Blooming Buckwheat

A porridge made of a light grain such as quinoa, buckwheat or barley. I love Bob’s Red Mill for warm breakfast cereals. This recipe on their website for Barley Hash looks great and has all the perfect ingredients for a Spring season start to the day.

Home-made Chapati with wheat and barley flour, topped with honey and cinnamon.

1/2 cup of granola with warm milk.

Lunch

A Feast of Seasonal Greens, like asparagus, artichokes, mustard greens, avocado, and sprouts of every kind, with seasonal color like radishes.

A gorgeous medley of steamed, stewed or sautéed vegetables with tofu or paneer and a light grain such as quinoa.

A plate of Beans and Greens, such as Pinto Beans with Kale.

Udon: Buckwheat Noodles with Vegetables & Miso

Dinner

Barley Soup, Miso Soup, Green Vegetable Soup, Lentil and Spinach Soup, Whole Bean Chile, Kichari

Snacks

Puffed rice, rice cakes with honey and cinnamon, collard greens rolled with hummus & red pepper, a piece of fresh fruit, sprouted bread toasted with honey and cinnamon, a  small handful of seeds (sunflower or pumpkin), popcorn.

Evening: “Detox” or Tulsi Tea.

~~~

While Spring Cleaning, focus on what is positive in your life. Raise yourself up, feed your mind, elevate your spirit with inspiring activities, and allow yourself to enjoy the changes. Don’t forget you have amazing power.  Allow yourself to rise up and blossom this Springtime. Radiate your Beauty. Let yourself shine!

My next “Ayurvedic Nutrition and Cooking Class,” on April 3rd, is devoted to Detoxification. You will find all the information here ~ Spring Detox: A Class on Ayurvedic Nutrition & Cooking

Welcome Home & Palak Paneer

Evenings in Rishikesh

We have just returned from India where we taught at the International Yoga Festival in Rishikesh, a delight nearly impossible to express. I brought back two souvenirs for you ~ a refined recipe for Palak Paneer, below, and a few words to try to convey the essence of the experience.

At the Festival’s Opening Ceremonies, we were spontaneously asked to speak to help welcome the Participants. It captured so much of what it means for me to be in that divine place, so I wrote it down the next day to keep as a kind of memento. I share it here with the hope that it brings you, wherever you are in the world, some of the magic of Rishikesh ~ because Rishikesh is more than a place: it is a state of mind, a Heavenly presence, a way of being that belongs to all.

H.H. Puyja Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji

Namaskar.

In the words of Puyja Swamiji, “Welcome…Home.”

Welcome ~
 To the Home of Yoga;
 to the Source of the Vedas;
 to the Place of the Rishis whose profound wisdom has given us Yoga;
 to the Divine Love of Mother Ganga, the holiest of rivers;
 and to the Land of Shiva, who is the Grace in the Mystery of Eternal Silence.

Welcome ~
 To this Place of Deep Peace and Immense Beauty that allows us to rest and soften into our own deep peace and immense beauty within, a peace and beauty that has been beckoning us, calling us home the whole of our lives.

Welcome ~
 Above all, to this, the Heart of All Existence, where we discover the true gifts of the heart and where we remember that in the Heart, We Are All One. Where Immortal mountains point us towards Heaven – and the very real possibility of creating Heaven here on earth. Where in the Heart “a river runs through” – an eternal stream connecting us back to our own ancestors, to our own wisdom, to our own Source, to our own Infinite Heart.

Sadhvi Bhagwatiji at Opening Ceremonies

Pranams, great gratitude, to Puyja Swamiji for your generous heart that called to us, and gathers all of us here, in the name of Love. To all the great Swamis and Sages here tonight and all the Swamis, Yogis, women and men throughout the ages whose Sadhana has enabled ours, thank you. To our beloved Sadhvi Bhagwatiji, for your inspiration and example, thank you. To all the Parmarth Niketan family, for your humble, devoted service that makes our temporary home here comfortable, we thank you.

In particular, to all the participants of the 2011 International Yoga Festival, thank you for the courage, effort and devotion it took to come here and join us in this One Heart where we celebrate Yoga as Divine Union.

To that One Heart, we say “Welcome.” To that Radiant, Infinite Heart in You, we say, “Namaste.”

IYF Opening Ceremonies in the rain

This was our third trip to Rishikesh, but the first time we stopped in at the Green Hotel, just behind Parmarth Niketan Ashram where the Festival was held. We had heard that the restaurant here serves the best food in town, but we had no idea that this rooftop restaurant also offers one of the most exquisite views of the mountains from anywhere in Rishikesh.

It is simply stunning to sit there in the early evening and watch the play of light on the Himalayan foothills as the sun sets over the river Ganges behind. In those moments, you really feel the blissful serenity that Yoga promises. It’s as if you’ve plugged into the mind of Yogis who meditated here since time immemorial and become one with that eternal stream of consciousness. Pure Ananda

Ganges flowing through the Himalayan foothills

We went back numerous times, as much for the view as for our favorite meal, Palak Paneer and Navrattan Korma. The Green Hotel Restaurant’s version of these dishes is so fresh, so delicious, so fortifying, heart-warming and soul-stirring that, beyond the best in Rishikesh, it is easily the best I have ever had. I vowed to improve my own recipes at home and learn how to make a Palak Paneer every bit as creamy and rich.

Palak means Spinach

I have always made Palak Paneer without reference to any recipe. It seems easy enough: spinach, a bit of cream and some spices. But since our return I have been mining the seemingly infinite number of recipes to see if there are any particular gems that would make it especially creamy and delicious.

My Palak Paneer experiments: this one with tomato

It turns out I was missing something. Tomatoes! Every recipe I am reading recently includes tomatoes, canned, stewed, diced or as a paste. But I don’t care for tomatoes, they are too acidic for me, and the Green Hotel’s version definitely did not have them. So I am going back to my own version, but with some adjustments to the spice, a finer chop to the spinach, and a crunchier, firmer Paneer.

Making Paneer

After much experimentation, here is the recipe I have come up with to get that rich, creamy, almost sweet, absolutely divine Palak Paneer, without tomatoes. If you want it sweeter you can stir in a teaspoon of jaggary, just before adding the Paneer. Most recipes call for that.

I would love for you to try it and let me know what you think.

For a Print version, double click on Recipe

A few notes ~

Paneer is a fresh cheese used often in Indian vegetarian cooking. It has a great texture and holds flavors better than tofu. You can buy it at Asian/Indian ethnic grocery stores, but it is so easy and great fun to make. Manjula will show you how ~ Making Paneer.

Cumin Seed is so much tastier than cumin powder. You can purchase it at ethnic food stores, but more and more healthy grocers are stocking it so you might find it at your local. If you cannot find it, by all means substitute with the powder: same amounts, just stir it into the heated oil with the other spices.

BBC Food has a unique version they call “Crunchy Palak Paneer” which I look forward to trying as well.

Palak Paneer with Channa Masala & Raita

Is it trivial to go from Ananda to Spinach? I hope not. Love is the foundational principle of existence. Out of love, you and everything in this world were created. Remembering that the natural world is an expression of love, that food is a sacred offering of that love, and that our meals, therefore, are a primary, intimate relationship with boundless love helps us restore our sense of place, purpose and meaning – and encourages an experience of life as profoundly, satisfyingly sweet and sacred.

This is why I call it “Food: A Love Story.” Food comes from Mother Nature wanting to love, support and merge with you. When you cultivate that sacred relationship, and eat love everyday, you become a living vessel of Love shining a radiance so bright that Heaven can look down and see its own reflection in you. You come home to yourself.

Parmarth Niketan

And then you might even hear your Palak Paneer whispering with love, Welcome Home!


A Super Bowl of Beans

Nazik’s Moroccan Beans

This Sunday we are hosting a reunion for the graduates of our Mastery of Life and Yoga Teacher Trainings. Over the years we have seen over one hundred people complete these trainings, and it has been a joy to watch each one of them reclaim their heart and shine their magnificence into the world.

We feel so blessed to be part of the empowerment of so many good and loving people and look forward to seeing them again. Unfortunately, though, some will not be able to make it as we unwittingly scheduled our Mastery of Life Reunion on the same day as the Super Bowl!

Paul Amato, Deep Yoga Teacher and Integrative Health Coach, is one who wrote to say that he won’t be able to join us. In his case, he has a long-standing commitment to cook for his friends on Sunday. We will miss Paul and the others who can not make it. So I wanted to offer them, and all of you who are looking for a super healthy way to feed your super friends this Super Bowl Sunday, a gift from our kitchen ~ my friend Nazik’s incredible Moroccan Beans.

I fell in love with these beans the minute I first laid eyes on them many years ago. The beauty of the beans sparkling with Marrakesh spice, the Mediterranean fragrance of garlic, onion and pepper, the texture and consistency of its Tangiers taste, and the Sirocco warmth it gives the belly inspired me from the first, and has continued to charm ever since. This dish definitely comes from Morocco with love!

Peppers add bite

It is perfect for Super Bowl Sunday, because it it will complement anything, it is hearty enough to replace chili, and it can stand on its own. You can also make it the night before, or early in the morning, for less fuss on the day.

For family and friends in Chicago ~ this is especially great for winter days when blizzards keep you home. The ingredients are usually on-hand, the spices will thaw you from the inside, and, served with a chunk of whole grain bread or steamed brown rice, it is packed with protein and fiber to give you the fortitude needed to cope with epic weather conditions. Besides, with a name like Nazik’s Morrocan Beans conjuring images of  balmy, blue-skied, orange-scented, exotic, distant, desert lands it is sure to warm and inspire.

Chicago’s famed blizzard of ’67

NAZIK’S MOROCCAN WHITE BEANS

2 cup White Beans, preferably Northern or Cannellini, soaked
3 tablespoon Ghee
3 tablespoons Olive Oil
6-8 Garlic Cloves, peeled and whole
1 Yellow Onion, peeled and whole
1 Red Onion, peeled and whole
1 tsp. Cayenne
1/2 tsp. Turmeric
1/2 tsp. Ginger Powder
1/2 tsp. Celery Seeds
1/2 tsp. Cumin
1/4 tsp. Clove
1/4 tsp. Fresh Ground Pepper
Salt & Pepper, to taste
Asafetida (optional)
Fresh Mint (optional)

Soaking Beans

Melt the ghee (Earth Balance or Safflower oil is fine) in a large pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil and sprinkle in the cayenne. Stir or spin the bottom of the pan to swirl the oil with the cayenne. Add the rest of the spices, except the salt and asafetida. Sauté for one minute. Add the garlic cloves and swirl. Drain the beans and add to the pot, stirring to coat the beans with the spicy oil. Add the onions and 7 cups of water. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer. Stir occasionally until beans are tender, about 1.5 to 2 hours.

Once the beans are tender, spoon out a few, let them cool and give it a taste. If it is not spicy enough, melt a tablespoon of ghee (or any oil) in a small saucepan with another dash or two of cayenne. Let this heat for about one minute, then pour onto the beans and stir. I usually do this anyway, because I like to sauté a pinch of asafetida (hing) in melted ghee, always, before pouring into any cooked bean mixture I make.  It aids digestion ~ and with beans every little bit helps!

In the Pot

Whether it is for Super Sunday or any winter day, this is a simple recipe yielding a big, satisfying meal. We serve it with Naan, so the kids can scoop the beans into a “Moroccan Burrito.” I like to garnish each bowl with fresh mint to sustain the sultry Moroccan feel, but also to cool the palate between bites, because these beans are Sahara hot.

Our Super Bowl of Beans

These beans are like a girl’s best friend ~ easy, reliable, sometimes spicy, always comforting. So it is not a surprise the recipe comes from an angelic friend from the north of Africa.

Nazik lives in Tangiers, where she paints, writes and, one hopes, cooks. She is an amazing artist, with a beautiful heart that could light a desert night. Her sweetness reminds me of The Little Prince.

St. Exupery’s Little Prince

Nazik has written a really cool book called Say It Again that teaches English through colorful, dynamic images. If you are interested, or could help her find a publisher, please email her at freenazouki@hotmail.com. When you do, of course please let her know how you like her beans!

Whole Food’s Website offers the basics

Whole Foods has a handy website full of cooking how-to’s. Click on the image above to find this photo heading their suggestions for the basics on beans, including soaking times, water-to-beans ratios and more recipes for these delicious, nutrition-packed legumes.


Channa Masala

Chick Peas in Masala Sauce

My husband Bhava and I are going to India in February/March to teach at the International Yoga Festival in Rishikesh. A group of wonderful, heart-centered Yogis are coming with us for a twelve-day Retreat, including 4 days of Ayurvedic treatments on the banks of Ma Ganga.

It is such an honor to take people “home” to the source of our practice, to meet wise sages and saintly swamis, to bathe in the healing waters of the Ganges, and to dwell for a time in the pure possibility of such enduring peace.

For this opportunity we feel humbled, blessed and deeply grateful.  Jai Guru!

This past weekend, we hosted a dinner for those who will be traveling with us. We wanted to give them an idea of what to expect and help them to prepare, both physically and emotionally. With my most fabulous husband’s help, I prepared our favorite dishes from a typical meal they might enjoy in India.

Fortunately, the dinner was appreciated. Two of our guests even said that they would become vegetarian if they could eat like this everyday. I am not sure if they knew just how that motivates me! Since I stopped eating meat at age 16, I promised I would never proselytize, but who does not see the reason in Paul McCartney’s statement ~

“If anyone wants to save the planet, all they have to do is just stop eating meat. That’s the single most important thing you could do. It’s staggering when you think about it. Vegetarianism takes care of so many things in one shot: ecology, famine, cruelty.”
*

So, when a flurry of requests erupted at the end of the evening, of course ~ despite an impossibly full week ~ I enthusiastically said, “Yes, I’ll post the recipes.” I love cooking, I love blogging, but mostly, I love it when people taste and feel the love that is in their food. So, yes!

We enjoyed a number of dishes, in the Indian Style. Of them, Channa Masala is the simplest and quickest to prepare. Since we are soon to depart, rather than typing it out, I encourage you to try this great recipe,  similar to the one we made, from my favorite Ayurveda recipe book,  Eat, Taste, Heal.

eat taste heal
You can use any Korma and Garam Masala spice mixtures. If you can’t find Korma, use Curry powder. If you can’t find Garam Masala, just make it by mixing cinnamon, coriander, clove, cardamom, nutmeg, black pepper: a little more of the first three, a little less of the last three.

You can serve Channa Masala with rice, or with Chappatti or Naan. If you can’t find these Indian breads at your local market try an Italian flat bread. Garlic was the favorite with our guests!

I hope you enjoy this protein-packed meal.

To your Good Health ~ Namaste!

~

I invite you to join me, Friday January 28th, from 6-9 pm, for a class on “Stoking the Fires: Ayurvedic Cooking in the Winter Season” to learn to prepare at home fresh Garam Masala and Korma Powder used in these recipes.

Sadhvi Bhagawati with Children at the Ashram
Sadhvi Bhagawati with Children

For a great close-up on what to expect in India, please read our beloved friend Sadhvi Bhagawati’s article, “India: Let It Inside You.”

Linda McCartney

Paul McCartney’s wife Linda was an original food pioneer who turned her passion into a food brand. Her family has maintained her company and a website where you can find her recipes for wholesome cooking. With so many delicious recipes like these available today, you might succeed in convincing your friends, too!


New Year Cleanse: Deep Detox Drink

Every year, at some point between Christmas and New Year’s Day, there comes a morning when you wake up and the first thing you hear is, “Enough!”

It is only a voice in your head, of course, but it is powerful, insistent, and every bone in your body knows it’s right.

Enough! Enough with the excess. Enough with the crowds. Enough with the parties, the merriment, the recaps and resolutions. Enough with the sugar. Enough with the cream. Enough with the foods you said “enough” to last year. Enough with it all!

The new year is dawning. It’s time to pull it together. Time to get healthy and pure.

When this day comes, when you vow to reduce, when simple is more than enough, our Deep Detox Drink is a great way to get started. It stands on its own as a potent detoxifier, and gives a robust kick-start to any cleansing or dietary regime.

Here is how to make it:

Squeeze one half a lemon into a blender or shaker with 1/2 cup water, one heaping tablespoon of Spirulina, 1/2 cup Aloe Vera juice, three shakes of Turmeric, a dash of black pepper and a spoonful of honey, or more to taste. Give it a good shake and drink on an empty stomach.

You can drink this before breakfast, to replace a meal, or in regular intervals as a juice fast for up to three days. The efficacy of this drink comes from the power of bitter-tasting ingredients to reduce mass, purify tissues, and eliminate toxins. If you are pregnant, this is not for you. If you are weak, frail, have a chronic illness, or feel mentally ungrounded or unstable, please consult a health professional first.

Deep Detox Drink: The Remains
Deep Detox Drink: The Remains

Ayurveda has much to say on the subject of physical and mental detoxification. One of the leaders in the field, Maharishi Ayurveda, has more suggestions for you to consider on their website.

Happy New Year ! 

 

Is that an OM I hear?

Whole Mung

At this time of year, between the holiday feasts, plain and simple has special appeal, when I love nothing more than a warm bowl of Kichari.

Kichari, sometimes spelled Kichidi, is split mung bean and rice cooked long and slow, often with spices and ghee. It is an Ayurvedic staple ~ balancing, tonifying and cleansing.

We often think of foods that tonify, or strengthen, and foods that cleanse and detoxify as utterly distinct. The beauty of Kichari is that it does both. It fortifies and purifies, explaining its reputation as one of the world’s original “Smart Foods.”

Kichari is served to the sick, elderly, overweight, undernourished. It provides most of our daily nutritional needs, is easy to digest, and kindles the digestive fires, making it ideal, too, for post-operative recovery, as it won’t divert energy from the healing. Kichari is such a complete meal that it is often eaten exclusively as a fast. Patients receiving Pancha Karma are put on a Kichari-only regime for the duration of their multi-day Ayurvedic treatments, because it so efficiently supports detoxification.

Despite its medicinal power, Kichari is great comfort food ~ and surprisingly delicious. It is, in fact, full body delicious: home-cooked kichari awakens cellular intelligence to the point you can almost hear your body hum. Mmmmm. Yummmm. Ommmm. Yeeeesssss.

Split Mung Beans are the primary ingredient in Kichari

Since I didn’t grow up eating Kichari, I am comfortable taking liberties. For the past five years, I have made Kichari once or twice a week, experimenting with every recipe I could find. I make it a point, too, to taste Kichari at Indian restaurants in every city I visit. If it is unique or especially good, I try to recreate it at home. I used to follow guidelines regarding measurements, spices, proportions. By now, though, I have made it so regularly and in so many different ways, it has become entirely intuitive, and completely personal.

Yesterday, wanting to make something extra warm and comforting on what was a foggy, cold December day, I pushed the limits on the spices ~ and may have accidentally made my very best Kichari yet!

Here is what I did:

Everyday Kichari

1/2 cup of split mung beans
1/2 cup of basmati rice
3 T Ghee, or Coconut Oil for Vegan
1/2 t Ginger powder
1/2 t Turmeric powder
1/2 t Garam Masala
1 t Clove powder
1 t Cinnamon powder
dash of Cayenne
dash of freshly ground Black Pepper
1/4 t crushed Garlic
1/4 t Asafoetida (Hing)
Sea or Himalayan Salt to taste
5 cups water

Begin by rinsing the beans. Let them soak in cool water while you melt 1 teaspoon of ghee with the ghee/oil in a large soup pot over medium-low heat. Add the ginger, turmeric, clove, garam masala, cinnamon, dash each of cayenne and fresh black pepper, and gently sauté for one minute. Add the garlic and stir well.

Drain the beans and mix them into the spiced oil. Rinse the rice and add to beans. Stir the rice and beans so they are thoroughly glazed. Turn heat to medium-high and add the water. Give it a good stir, bring it to a boil, lower the heat back to medium-low and cover.

Allow to cook for 45 minutes to an hour, checking to be sure the kichari is neither boiling too aggressively, nor drying too quickly. If you ever do need to add more water to the pot, bring it to a boil first in a separate pot and then quickly add to the Kichari. Technically, we should always maintain a consistent gentle boil when cooking beans.

In a separate small pan, melt the remaining ghee and add in the salt and asafoetida. When the kichari is fully cooked, spoon into bowls and pour this salty ghee over the top.

Yesterday, I sautéed fresh broccoli and chopped carrots with a bit of yellow onion and slivered almonds in the “salt and asafoetida ghee,” then served it over the Kichari to make an extra crunchy, flavorful bowl of steaming nourishment.

Truly, it feels to me, that if food is love, Kichari comes straight from the unconditional heart.

Kichari

For kichari, the mung beans must be split. I buy them by the pound in Little India. It is also recommended that the basmati be white, not brown, but in my liberty-taking way, I usually use brown. Read Michael Tierra’s article on Kichari to learn why. For more on the medicinal value of herbs and spices check out his website, Planet Herbs.

Namaste!