Late Summer Salsa

From Jenny’s Garden

Tomorrow Bhava and I will be teaching at the Karma Yoga for a Cause Fundraiser to benefit Shakti Rising. It is such an honor to be invited to present our teachings on Yoga and the Divine Feminine and to Chant the Body Sacred at this event. Shakti’s recovery programs help so many women hurt by trauma and abuse learn to restore their spirit, reclaim their power, remember the light within, and become leaders of emerging women-centered services and societies that benefit all.

All people everywhere ~ men, women, adults, children ~ benefit when women learn to love themselves. And to love one another, too, so today I am sending out love to Jenny Barrett, the creator and Maha Shakti Power Generator behind this event.

The “Shakti Butterfly”

Last Sunday we met up with Jenny and other friends at the San Diego Botanic Gardens to see where we would be teaching and  run through the day’s program. As we were leaving, Jenny gave us each a few vegetables picked that morning from her home garden. I received a small tomato, a long green pepper and the cutest little orange pepper that looked like a baby bell but bit like a sharp-toothed hoary dragon!

Of course, I went home and made Salsa which was especially handy as I had kichari preparing in the Slow Cooker, something I like to wrap with a teaspoon of yogurt and a few arugula leaves in flour tortillas to make burritos for the children.

It was fun to forage for the ingredients for this Salsa, using only what was on hand, and eating with the season by preparing foods that had been (mostly) picked that day. It was also simple to make.

First, I picked and shredded Cilantro from our garden…

Chopped an apple from the Japanese farmer who sells crunchy Fujis at our local Market…

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Sliced and diced a cucumber brought to us from Suzie’s Farm….

Minced the peppers, removing their seeds…

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Then I ran for a fire extinguisher as this was the hottest little pepper north of the Tijuana River!

Finally, I cut up the tomato and stirred it all together in a bowl with a squeeze of lime, a pinch of Himalayan salt and a drizzle of olive oil.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Thanks to the surprisingly potent pungency of the baby orange pepper, this Salsa was exceptionally spicy, so I renamed it “Salsa Chutney.”  Like a chutney, it compliments almost any dish, but only a small amount is needed.

It is the peppery pungency of Salsa that helps digest beans and rice, and any heavy meal that might include meat, fish, grains, dairy. Heat, including the heating action of a pungent taste, draws circulation to the abdomen which increases the digestive power.

Refreshing ingredients like apple, cucumber, and cilantro balance the heat of the peppers, keeping blood, muscle, bone, neurological and immune tissue cool, strong and intact.

In late Summer, we need to release the heat that has accumulated in our tissues over the three months of warm weather, because too much heat applied to anything will burn, deplete and ultimately destroy. For that reason, Mother Nature, in her loving wisdom, gives us apples, plums, gooseberries, grapes, nectarines, sweet melons, sweetcorn, zucchini, celeriac, green beans, green leafy vegetables and other cooling foods to restore balance.

It is really important to pay attention now and eat seasonally. Autumn sees nature wither and die back, bringing with it challenges to our health, so it is crucial to be here now, so to speak, with your meals. Late September’s Harvest is the key to readying you now for a healthy Autumn.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Late Summer Salsa Chutney Recipe

1 small Tomato
1/2 Cucumber
1 Pepper of your choice: bell, jalapeño, serrano…
1 Apple
1 bunch Cilantro
1 Lime
Olive Oil
Himalayan Salt

Chop the vegetables and apple into small bit-size pieces. Stir together in a bowl. Season with lime juice, salt, even a bit of Sambal if your peppers are not as hot as Jenny’s. Drizzle with oil and serve.

CookingwithSorrel.com

Karma Yoga for a Cause will be catered by Sorrel and Fall Weiss whose gorgeous, natural foods are captured and celebrated on their website, cookingwithsorrel.com.

And so with extraordinary teachers, inspiring events, friends from all over and the beguiling sisters Sorrel and Fally catering, we know we are all going to be very well nourished! I hope you can join us.

Even if you can’t, wherever you are, I wish you a beautiful late Summer Sunday.

In honor of the love present everywhere in nature and in support of the love blazing in your heart ~ Namaste!

Sally’s “Fish,” Chips and Vegan Tacos

It all starts simply here: making Tofu Cheese

My friend Sally has a beautiful blog called Home Sweet Orange where she writes about the beautiful things she loves, especially her love for the sweet, simple life she and her husband share.

Her post on Vegan “Fish,” Chips and Tacos was so inspiring for its creativity and sense of play that I asked her if we could repost it here. Of course she said Yes, because that’s way she is: generous, kind, easy-going, peaceful.

If Sally were a season, she would be summer, which is perfect given that her cool recipes perfectly balance the heat of the season. Providing refreshing nourishment, they are ideal for summer “al fresco.” In fact, the Baja “Fish” Tacos are so right for the season that a variation will be featured on our Summer Ayurveda Class Menu. 

Sally Tinker Smith

At our house, when my husband slathers red miso on the tofu and begins the process of making tofu cheese, it’s the beginning of a string of favorite meals! The tofu cheese itself is a fermented wonder, tasting a lot like feta, and it’s great crumbled over salad or as a veggie sandwich spread.

“fish” & chips
Here’s where I come in. I slice the tofu cheese into sticks, dress them up with a spicy breading and bake with french-fry-sliced potatoes, for fish-n-chips. The tartar sauce brings it all together. I go for ketchup on my potatoes, but the Mister goes for straight tartar sauce all the way around. Recipes follow.
baja “fish” tacos

A couple of days later, it’s fish taco time! Find yourself some simple corn tortillas made with just cornmeal, lime and water. Toast over an open flame. Add a fish stick or two, tartar sauce, green tomatillo salsa, shredded cabbage and a squeeze of lime. Tonight we had cilantro on hand, and if avocado is in season, these tacos are even more perfect with guacamole.

“fish” tacos
In November, Torrey and I stopped in at Native Foods for “Baja Surf Tacos” when we were studying Permaculture together up in Laguna. They’re made with battered tempeh, and I love them too! Even better when your friend brings limes to share!

TOFU-CHEESE FISH STICKS (adapted from Shmooed Food)

1/3 cup fine organic cornmeal
1/3 cup ground raw almonds
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon dulse flakes
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon dill weed
1/8 teaspoon black pepper (more or less to taste)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment.

Cut tofu cheese into sticks/fingers. Dip them into a shallow dish of plain almond milk, and coat with thoroughly mixed dry ingredients.

Place sticks on baking sheet. Bake for total of 30 minutes, turning them over after 15 minutes. You can sprinkle with olive oil to make them more crispy.

TARTAR SAUCE

1/2 cup Vegenaise
1 tablespoon dill pickles, finely chopped
1 tablespoon stuffed green olives, chopped
1 tablespoon onion, grated
1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons capers, chopped
1 teaspoon lime juice
1 teaspoon garlic, minced

Mix it all up and refrigerate for a bit before serving.

Clicking on Sally’s link above, “making tofu cheese,” will take you to Recipe Renovator” where our friend Stephanie Weaver gives graphically detailed instructions according to Sally’s husband Jeff for making the tofu cheese. Please let us know if you try it and what you think.

Thanks Sally!

Namaste ~ 


In Praise of MA

Lemon Polenta Cake, photo: nigellalawson.com

I am dreaming of being with my mother today. We would sit amongst the “darling buds of May” in her garden, the one designed and created by my sister Julia, who would be there, too, with her children. My extraordinary 96-year-old grandmother, the matriarch of our large, vibrant family, “Nana the Great” to all our children, would also sit with us, commenting on the vibrant color of a prairie cone flower perhaps, or the unique blossom of a native species that is my sister’s specialty and my mother’s pride.

With my cousin Marc, “Nana the Great” and my mother

We would tell my mother what a great mother, friend, example, inspiration she has been and continues to be. How soothing her comforting wisdom is even now. She’d say “No, no, it is you children who have given me so much…” because that is the way she is. But we’d keep trying to let her know with our words, our hand-holding, our little gifts, our kitchen labor, our watchful presence, that she has meant everything to us. If we tried to enumerate the details of that everything, we’d get teary, so we stick to the generals and deeply breathe in the joy of being together after too long apart.

Expecting her fifth child

Since my mother, and my Aunt, were artists and great cooks, I consider at length just what I’d prepare for Mother’s Day. I’d want it to delight her as well as express the depth of gratitude I feel, but it needs to be simple so that we are free to enjoy our time together, unconstrained by cooking complexities.

Millet Muffins, photo by vsimon

Britta from Suzie’s Farm gave me a great idea this week: dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free Millet Muffins for Mother’s Day Breakfast. I’d add a dash of cardamom to the batter, and serve them hot from the oven with a warm blackberry preserve.

Nikki’s Healthy Cookies, photo: 101cookbooks.com

For a healthy and heavenly snack, “Nikki’s butter-less, flour-less, egg-less, and potentially sugar-less Cookies” at Heidi Swanson’s 101 Cookbooks.com look scrumptious. No doubt the children would love them, and they would be great in the afternoon with a cup of Earl Grey.

My mother visited me when I lived in Florence, Italy and numerous times while I was in London, so I like the idea of the Lemon Polenta Cake, pictured up top. Coming from Nigella Lawson, it is a twist on British and Italian standards, so would elicit many sweet memories. It, too, is gluten-free and with Earth Balance instead of butter, could also be dairy-free.

David Lebovitz’ French Jam Tart

Or, since my mother is so healthy, we could go all out. Of course, she is absolutely worth it, so maybe I’d splurge and make a French Jam Tart, remembering the days we walked all over Paris trying to find one Museum that was open and finally surrendered for warm pastry and tea. We found then that the treasure of Paris is really there: in the cafes and patisseries, on the streets, and in the parks. “In the everyday; just like life,” we might have said.

~

Every day is Mother’s Day on this Blog, since it is a site entirely devoted to celebrating the wise and loving gifts of Mother Earth. But on this one day of the year, our official Mother’s Day, I celebrate my own mother whose mothering simply astounds me.

Mom

Thank you, Mom, for your endless and selfless gifts! I am so blessed to have your love, devotion, wisdom, forgiveness and support. You, and the brother and sisters you gave me, sustain and encourage my life in countless ways. I send you waves and waves of love today and every day.

Happy Mother’s Day!

~

Amy & Kathy Eldon

On this important day, I would like to invite you to watch a short video on Extraordinary Moms, hosted by Julia Roberts and created by my extraordinary friends Amy & Kathy Eldon, who, like my mother and your mother, are themselves extraordinary mothers. For every 20 times this XO MOMS Video is viewed, Humanity International will provide a mosquito net to a mother, and family in need, in Ghana to prevent Malaria.

~

Spring: Season of Fiery Spice & Wild Greens

Spring is a time for healing and growth, bringing life to its fullest blossom while sloughing off accumulations that weigh and slow us down. This, therefore, is the prime season for detoxification, when we want to do what nature is doing: melt the freeze of winter and prepare for the liberation of Summer.

The key to healthy detoxification is Agni! Agni is the Sanskrit word for fire. It is generally used to describe our digestive fire, which resides in our solar plexus. Agni’s job is to help us digest and assimilate the nutrients in our food, and to support the cleansing organs, including the skin, liver, and kidneys, to move the waste out of our body.  Agni is like a little potbelly stove at the center of our “house” (or body). Our digestion, as well as our immunity, vitality, and clarity of mind, depend on it.

You can strengthen your Agni in four simple ways: aerobic exercise, a targeted Hatha Yoga practice, healthy whole foods, and detoxifying herbs.

To stoke your digestive fire, sip ginger tea with your meals and add zesty warming spices that help to break down foods and eliminate waste. In the Spring, Ayurvedic spices such as ginger, garlic, cinnamon, clove, basil, oregano, pepper, turmeric, cumin, coriander, cayenne, asafetida (hing), fenugreek and chilies offer flavor, aroma, healing wisdom and most of all, fire to your foods.

Hot peppers “melt” Winter’s “freeze.”

What to Eat

Edible wild greens of Late Winter and early Spring are especially detoxifying. Bitter and pungent tasting, they include dandelion greens, purslane, ramps, sorrel, lamb’s quarters, chickweed, chicory, garlic mustard, shepherd’s purse, escarole, fiddleheads, wild prickly lettuce, mache, nettles, frisee, sour grass, and onion grass. Sample some of these Spring greens, freshly picked and still moist, and you might be surprised by its peppery, pungent blast.

Green Vegetables: Loaded with fiber, leafy greens like mustard greens, spinach and kale act like industrial scrub brushes to aide your body in its housecleaning and repair.

Dark leafy greens: Full of chlorophyll, a detox agent, chlorophyll will help release toxins from your body, while stimulating cellular intelligence and improving your energy.

Beans: Packed with protein, a side of legumes, like dhal or hummus, add savory satisfaction as a substitute for the heavier, harder to digest, and often pesticide-laden meat, fish and eggs.

Good quality fats (including avocados, extra virgin olive oil, ghee and coconut): Enjoyed in moderation high quality fats are stored in the body as energy, not fat, and help you lose weight in the long run. Remember, it is not fat, but sugar that makes us fat.

Zesty warming spices: Strengthen digestive fire with the help of pungent spices that help to break down foods, and eliminate waste. In the Spring, Ayurvedic spices such as turmeric, cumin, coriander, cayenne, black pepper, cayenne, ginger, asafetida (hing), cloves and fenugreek offer flavor, aroma, digestive muscle and purification.

Farmer’s Market Sprouted Beans & Sunflower Greens
What’s in Season

Artichokes, asparagus, avocadoes, beets, broccoli, grapefruit, kumquats, meyer lemons, blood oranges, tangelos, mandarins, grapefruit, carrots, chard, dates, fava beans, fennel, green garlic, kale, leeks, lettuces, mustard greens, new potatoes, nettles, English peas, Snap peas, pea shoots, pea tendrils, radicchio, radishes, rapini, spring onions, shallot shoots, sorrel, bean sprouts, strawberries, watercress.

~

For delicious Spring detoxification, try this Cilantro Pesto.
For a more detailed Spring Clean Regime, how about joining our Spring Clean 21 Day Challenge?

~
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!


Food as Medicine

Morning TeaAyurveda recognizes that the key to optimal health is a strong digestive fire. In this coldest and darkest time of the year, we need to be vigilant about strengthening that Agni, our inner fire of digestion and metabolism, to maintain the immune system’s robust vigor.

To that end, I am hosting a unique, experiential class on the subject later this month. Stoking the Fires: Ayurveda, Nutrition and Cooking for Winter Wellness is part of our continuing series on Kitchen Wisdom, in which we share with you the concepts and techniques of eating for optimal health.

All of my Ayurvedic Cooking Classes cover nutrition, food choices and preparation, spices, teas, tonics, and tips in a joyful, interactive, intimate evening. This January class will also describe the 6 Tastes and their application, the miraculous medicine inherent in your spices, and the ideal  recipes for wellness, warmth and comfort in this cold, blustery season.

The workshop includes lecture, preparations, cooking, tasting, and a rich, sumptuous, shared meal. Our class Winter Wellness Menu is above.

If you live in our region, I invite you to join us Friday, January 28 from 6-9 pm. Details are on our website.


Green Goddess Mornings

Green Goddess Mornings

Have you ever wondered what to eat in the morning? Ever felt tired of the “same old?” Dry cereal and cold milk lost its Mojo for you?

Personally, I never had much taste or enthusiasm for breakfast as a daily habit. Sure, breakfast as event is an inspiring way to begin any day. “Daddy’s Pancakes” on a Saturday, Brunch with extended family on a Sunday, fresh croissant at a place like the Darshan Bakery in Encinitas, bagels at the beach with friends ~ these are breakfasts to get up for.

But everyday breakfast, the one the pundits all say we absolutely must have, that leaves me wanting to go back to bed. And shouldn’t breakfast be just the opposite? Shouldn’t it give you fire, energy, pizzazz? Shouldn’t breakfast start your day the way you intend to live it?

Because I think breakfast should absolutely be one more great reason to get up in the morning, I make it sparkle, I make it fun, I make it lavishly green, I make it portable (why stop when the day has just begun?), and I make it right after Yoga practice while I am still dancing, singing, lovingly greeting the day. These, I call “Green Goddess Mornings.”

Tara: Green Goddess of Compassion

“What do you have for breakfast?” a client asked today, gently requesting I post the recipe here. Of course, with Green Goddess Mornings, nothing is ever the same. If it were, it wouldn’t be a Green Goddess Morning, would it?

Here, however, is an example of what breakfast could look like on any given day ~

GREEN GODDESS MORNING GLORY
2 Servings

1/2 cup Sparkling water (doesn’t have to be fizzy: “flat” water is fine)
1/2 cup Pomegranate or Hibiscus Juice
1/2 cup Aloe Vera Juice
Fresh juice of 1 Lemon
2 heaping tablespoons of Spirulina
2 Kale leaves, spine removed (beet leaves, brocoli florets, celery are also great)
1/2 of a Banana
1 heaping tablespoon Coconut Oil (or Walnut Oil)
1 heaping tablespoon ground Flaxseed (I like Bob’s as they are able to preserve vital nutrients often lost in the grinding process)
1 tablespoon Honey
1 dash each of Cinnamon and Turmeric (some days I also add a dash of either Cardamom, Cayenne, or Ginger)

Put everything together in a Juicer or Blender and give it a good mix. Pour into your favorite, most beautiful, most inspiring glasses ~ because you deserve it, and serve.

Green Goddess Morning Glory Shake

For its deep color and coconut speckles, it is gorgeous. As a meal, though, its rich green has been known to frighten! If it looks scary to you, adjust the measure of honey, thank it for its green Goddess potency, and it will be delicious.

I suggest, too, that before drinking, you tell your Green Goddess Shake exactly what kind of day you would like to have. Who knows? All great and true Goddesses have infinite power. Maybe she can restore the breakfast Mojo!

Green Goddess Mornings

I chose the painting above, Goddess of the Forest, by visionary artist Teressena, as it looks like the dawning of the day ~ Divine Mother bringing us the sun. Currently, Teressena, who uses images from her meditations, is working on a series of Goddess paintings that delve deeper in the universal consciousness of the divine feminine and the mysteries of the sacred. A reproduction of her Goddess on canvas can be purchased here, or here  for a reproduction on paper. 

Namaste! 

Stoking the Fires

Remember when Grandma would make a home remedy of hot lemon and honey whenever someone was sick? Some grandmothers might have added ginger, others a dash of cinnamon, some a pinch of black pepper, and the bold even added a shot of Brandy!

Grandmother’s medicine is a lot like Ayurveda. It is based on Intuitive Intelligence, and includes a lot of what I call Kitchen Wisdom, with healing ingredients you can find in almost any kitchen.

For instance, Grandma knew that in the winter, when it is chilly, often windy and dry, the very best way to prevent or treat a cold, is to keep warm and hydrated. From this simple premise came chicken soup, the hot toddy, spicy teas, and as my friend Jane from Bournemouth, England says, “A po’ o’ lemon.”

A wonderful “Grandmother Recipe” that we drink at home and that exemplifies the best of Ayurveda ~ botanical, simple, accessible, and highly effective ~  is the  Lemony Ginger Tonic.

To make two servings, put one half-inch slice of fresh ginger root into a blender. Add the juice of one whole lemon, 2 cups of water, 2 heaping teaspoons of raw honey (our favorite is Honey Gardens’ “Northern Raw” ), three shakes of cinnamon, two shakes of turmeric and one shake of cayenne powder. Blend thoroughly and pour into glasses.

Lemony Ginger Tonic can be heated and served warm, but in that case do not add the honey until you have poured your Tonic into the mug and allowed it to cool to drinking temperature. Honey should not be heated past 120 degrees.

This drink can be taken first thing in the morning to kindle the inner fires and hydrate the tissues, with meals to stoke the digestive fires, throughout the day to keep metabolic fires blazing and stay warm, any time to banish the blues when the days are gray, at the onset of a cold to clear the respiratory passage, and every day to strengthen your immune system.

Cinnamon is antibacterial, antimicrobial, anti-clotting, balancing to blood sugar and energizing to the brain. Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, blood and liver cleanser with a history of reducing tumors. Cayenne, or Capsicum, is a powerful antibacterial, pain-relieving, fat and mucus busting, cholesterol-lowering, blood pressure-regulating, cancer fighter. All three of these everyday spices are amongst the most highly researched herbs in the U.S. today, for their multiple use and safe potency in healing.

To your Good Health ~ Santé!

Winter Greens

In Ayurveda, we seek to include all six tastes in our meals in an order that matches the process of digestion and ensures optimal breakdown, absorption, and wellness.  I have seen many clients and students overcome chronic digestive discomfort simply through the wise sequencing of the six tastes.

For balance and health, our meals begin with the sweet taste, include some salt, sour, pungent, and follow with astringent and bitter. Salad greens offer some combination of the astringent and bitter taste, so following your main course with a salad is not only trés European, it is trés Ayurveda!

Which brings me to Christmas. Our Christmas Dinner will include a Winter Greens Salad with a lovely mass of color, and delightful bursts of tangy astringent and woody bitter flavors. We will pair it with Rogue Creamery’s Oregon Blue Cheese made from raw milk drawn from grass-fed cows. It’s an update on tradition and a tasty delight.

WINTER GREENS

Mesclun of fresh Farmer’s Market Greens
4-5 Spring Onions, chopped
1 cup dried Cranberries
1/2 cup Pepitas
1/2 cup Pomegranate seeds

Toss ingredients together in a bowl and serve with Walnut Oil Vinaigrette.

WALNUT OIL VINAIGRETTE

2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons Olive oil
3 tablespoons Walnut oil

Whisk together vinegar, garlic, mustard, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in a bowl, then whisk in oils in a slow stream until emulsified. Toss greens with enough vinaigrette to lightly coat. Season with salt and pepper.

Christmas Salad

Are you Vegan?

In our own home we are “Ayurvedis” and Yogis, if we are anything. This means that we eat mostly a vegetarian diet with the emphasis on locally grown, seasonal, organic, whole foods, balanced in terms of the six tastes and the Doshas. We are not fundamentalists, we don’t believe in denial as a methodology, nor do we claim to be Masters. We enjoy life, for all its beauty and all its bounty, but we try to be conscious about it, to make conscious choices, so that the health, energy, passion, joy, and abundance that we enjoy can be shared by all.

My intention in creating Food: A Love Story is to share that wisdom with you, in the simplest, most accessible manner, so that you are encouraged to love yourself Ayurvedically.

Photo: Getty

Traditionally, Ayurveda has called for milk and ghee as important staples of any diet. I remember an Ayurvedic Doctor in India telling me, “As you know, we love the cow. Cows are sacred for us not only in mythology, but  as a practical matter. We value her gifts and use everything she gives – milk, ghee, even dung for fire!”

In India cows are (mostly) free-ranging, grass-eating, and as a sacred animal, are treated with loving reverence. Milk, according to custom, is only taken in the Spring during calving season, AFTER the calves have had their fill. The milk for human consumption, then, is fresh, whole, organic, non-homogenized and collected according to the principle of Ahimsa, or non-harming.

According to Maharishi Ayurveda, “Milk provides special and unique nutrition that cannot be derived from any other type of food. When digested properly, milk nourishes all the tissues, promotes balanced emotions, and helps to balance all the doshas. It is one of the most important foods to promote Ojas.

According to Ayurveda, Ojas is a refined substance the body produces from the most subtle level of proper digestion. Ojas brings strength, strong immunity, happiness, and contentment. Therefore milk is a very important food to include regularly in one’s diet especially if you follow a vegetarian lifestyle.”

What to do, then, if you are Vegan?

If you avoid dairy, building Ojas will need to be a priority. Fortunately, there are Ojas-building foods of the non-dairy variety. Generally, those are the foods that are naturally “sweet” in taste. Examples are grains, pulses (split-mung dhal, lentils, split beans), root vegetables, seeds, dates, figs, raisins, olives and nuts (we are loving chestnuts lately for a “meaty,” incredibly tonifying snack – look for my soon-to-be-posted recipes for Chestnut Hummus and Chestnut Pesto).

By the way, canned, frozen, processed and microwaved foods must be avoided, as well as eating on the run, in front of the telly or while angry or stressed. All are highly Ojas-depleting!

In my recipes, Vegans can replace ghee with safflower or coconut oil for sautéing. A Vegan option like Earth Balance substitutes ghee for spreading on toast, dolloping on a dish as a final flourish, even for cooking. Coconut milk is a good stand-in for cream or milk, and is so delicious added to stews and stir-fry, it is always my first choice.  Milk can also be replaced with a grain or nut “milk” like Rice Milk, Almond Milk, Oat Milk, etc. For instance, in the Ojas Rasayana recipe under Basics, I recommend Almond Milk as the best substitute for cow’s milk.

I would warn, however, against soy milk as we just don’t know these days where all the soy is coming from, and GMO is definitely not Ayurvedic! Besides, most people get plenty of soy in their diet from its many forms and appearances across the spectrum of “health” food.

Think of Ojas as another way to describe what love does to us physically and mentally. It makes us stable, patient, inspired, confident, happy. It strengthens the immune system, improves organ function, increases clarity and fires up the brain.

So, Vegans, whether you are in love or not, love is in your food, so be sure to get enough healthy oils, enjoy your grounding staples, and relax with sweet, warm, comfort food. Indulge in Ojas-building foods and let love nourish you.