Entice with Spice: A Holiday Party

holiday table

Last week I catered a dinner for ten, as a fundraiser for our local Soroptimists supporting women and girls in education and business development. We called it “Entice with Spice” and this was our menu.

Entice with Spice

I am not a caterer, but it was the brainchild of Wendy McGuire, former owner of Ganosh Gourmet (ganosh = gnosh, ganache + ganesh because Wendy is truly multicultural in kitchen and in life). Wendy promised to help, and I put my trust in her, even as she trusted me to take the lead in offering a rich experience of spices.

appetizer table

We began with appetizers by the fireside and a chat about Ayurveda, focusing then on food and spicing for your body type, the medicinal value of spices, sampling the six tastes, and some of the best spices for each dosha. Intricately enticed, the guests moved to the dinner table where we served a sumptuously spiced meal to delight every sense.

appetizer tray

greens

endive bar

collageappetizer

Having just met Erin Gleeson at The Front Porch when she came in for a book signing and taste samplings (Thank you Sally!), I was inspired to borrow those same drinks and appetizers served. It lent perfect holiday color, while aligning with the “Indian Raj” theme that delighted our gin- and scotch-loving guests with twists on their usual.

gin fizz

pear

apricot canape

Here are the recipes:

Drinks (inspired by Erin Gleeson of The Forest Feast)

Rosemary Gin Fizz

Hot Pear Toddies

Appetizers (also inspired by Erin Gleeson)

Endive Bar

Spicy Pecans and Pepitas

Apricot Goat Cheese Bites

Ginger Miso Soup

braised squash and cranberry arugula salad

digestive drink

Dinner

Ginger Miso Consommé

Fish Molee  with Spinach Saag and Sesame Speckled Basmati

Braised Squash and Cranberry Arugula Salad with a Citrus Dressing

Digestive Tonic (fresh mint and lemon infused bitters)

Dessert

Chocolate Pâté

Nutmeg Lassi

Plates of Indian Treats

chocolate pate

dessert table

I think they liked it. They were kind enough to write.

“Wow, we’re still basking in the warm glow of what surely ranks up there as one of the most interesting, beautiful, original and downright DELICIOUS evenings ever! Thank you both so very much for including us – it was perfect in every single way!”

“It was wonderful!!! We fully enjoyed the evening and our guests have been raving about what fun it all was. The next day I babysat two of our granddaughters came over for the day and they loved seeing the party things. Thank you again for donating this lovely experience for Soroptimists.”

Our beautiful hostess

Big thanks to our hostess Gail for her generous gift to Soroptimists, and a big thanks to Coronado Soroptimists for all you do to support our communities, and for the Ruby Award that gave launch to our Sophia Camp.

I send out immense gratitude to Wendy who offered her kitchen when our house burned just as the three days of prep began, and whose patience, expertise and heart really made this the magical night that it was.

Thank you Shannon Jones for these gorgeous photographs. Thank you Sally for the invitation to meet Erin, and for all the ways you inspire me, and thanks to all of you who bring beauty, nourishment and love to our world. To me, beauty, friendship and delight is the best medicine of all.

Forest Feast


If you would like Erin’s Forest Feast Recipebook, please leave a comment below. I will pick a name randomly and send it out next week. How do you celebrate this season of light? 

Happy Holy Days. I wish you all love, joy and peace. 

 

Sweet Potato Chai Smoothie

#Sweet Potato Chai Smoothie

So here’s how spacey I can be: I put a sweet potato in the oven on Monday, thinking I’d have it later in the day with ghee and a sprinkle of Autumn spices. After an hour, its sweet aroma called me from my office. “Done!” it was signaling. I went and turned the oven off.

On Tuesday night,  3 hours away on a road trip with my mother, just before falling asleep, I remembered that little packet of Ojas, still sitting all by its lonesome in that now cold oven. Uh!

#sweetpotato

What happened? Too embarrassed to tell my husband, I let it remain there until I got home late the following night, whereupon I gently drew it from those dark cavernous racks, slid it into a safe, cozy place in the fridge, and then in the morning, knowing I had to use it or lose it, popped it in the blender and made a breakfast smoothie.

Sweet Potato #Smoothie

Being morning, following a full week of teaching and traveling, I knew it would offer the grounding I needed, but also wanted warming spices to rev up the morning fires. So I added a bit of fresh ginger, splashes of cinnamon, dashes of cardamom, and a sprinkle of fresh grated nutmeg. That, along with fresh Almond Milk, made for the gentlest, Autumn-welcoming, home-coming breakfast I can remember. Ever.

Sweet Potato #Smoothie

But then, as I mentioned, my memory is not that reliable… especially in Autumn. You see, in Ayurveda, Autumn is what we call the “Vata” season. Vata relates to the air element, which is windy and can make us restless, scattered, spacey. To balance the light, mobile, dry, cool qualities of Vata, we want to favor foods that are substantial, nourishing, wet and warm (either by lightly cooking and/or spicing). It’s almost like we are looking for foods we can sink into, foods we know will love and take care of us, foods we can trust.

I was having what we call in our house “a Vata moment,” and that sweet potato was just what I needed to restore balance. Amazingly, given how long it had sat, it was as good as if it had just been baked. That’s a food you can trust.

#vata-reducing

So here’s the recipe. If you omit the water, you’ll have something like a Sweet Potato Pudding, a great healthy dessert or snack. But I made it into a Smoothie because I needed something drinkable. That’s just the way mornings are for me.

Sweet Potato Chai Smoothie (or, Sweet Potato Pudding)
Makes enough for 2

1 small Sweet Potato (or half a large one)
1 cup Almond Milk
2 Dates
1/2″ inch coin Ginger, peeled
1 generous shake of cinnamon
A more reserved shake each of Nutmeg, Clove, Cardamom
1 t Raw Honey

1/4 cup Purified Water
Option: 1/8 t orange zest

Pierce your sweet potato and bake at 400° F for about 45 minutes. Allow to cool. Put it in your blender with everything, except the water, and mix on high until it is smooth. At this point, you’ll have something like a pudding. You could spoon this into dessert bowls and enjoy it like  a sweet snack, or for a Smoothie, add water until you get the consistency you desire. Pour and serve, with a spoon!

#SweetPotato #Chai Smoothie

This is so good you won’t believe it is good for you: tonifying, balancing, grounding, it is both Vata and Pitta pacifying. For Kapha, add more water, more ginger and clove, and maybe even a good shake of cayenne.

Given how healing and hormone-balancing sweet potatoes are, this is another truly delicious example of Mother Nature loving you. To Mother’s nature in you, Namaste!

Anatomy Of A Craving

Do you ever have cravings?

                               Is that a stupid question?

So, what are yours?

                                                                                                          I’ll tell you mine…

Sour Cream and Onion Kettle Chips

Yes, Potato Chips. But not just any old chip. All Natural Kettle Chips, gently cooked in the finest oils, seasoned with the freshest, all natural ingredients, creating chips with deep, rich flavors and fresh-from-the-field character, just as their website saysThe crispy, salty, dill infused, potato earth crunch of these Kettle Chips calls to me from the nearest Market in the sweetest, most promising voice, “Laura, I am here….”

Still, a major new diet study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that potato chips are The Very Worst Diet Offenders. They are demon Numero Uno behind the pound-a-year weight-creep that plagues us as we age. Which is no surprise. Just another reminder that I really have to Say No.

So when it occurs, it’s time to look into the Anatomy of the Craving: to break down the desire to its bare bones, to peel away the outer layers of quick and convenient, dig into its underlying impulse and try to discover a deeper, core truth.

Potatoes are a great source of minerals that can help keep the body cool in summer

“What is it?” I ask myself whenever I hear that persistent call. “What is it that you really desire? What is underneath that craving that might actually be good, perhaps even essential?”

This is a practice of listening called Vichara, from the Yoga tradition. It is a form of self-enquiry that lovingly gives attention to the desires, thoughts, emotions that we’ve grown to resist, dislike or disassociate. Instead of fighting against or guiltily succumbing, we wrap our awareness around the thought, feeling or sensation. We “listen to it” until it calms, until the inner experience is quiet enough to be able to hear what is needing to be heard.

Almost always, down under the noise, there is something wise, true, intimate and pure. Absolutely always, when followed to its completion, the practice provides deeper self-understanding, fosters self-compassion, and in time, reduces cravings.

So I listen.

Summer Potato Salad

Cravings are few and far between now, but when the desire does arise, it is almost always the same. I have, therefore, investigated its source many times. Usually, I interpret it as a need for Grounding/Potatoes, Hydration/Oils, and Electric Energy/Minerals and Salts. Inspired by the voice of that inner wisdom, home in my “kitchen lab,” I then enjoy inventing a recipe to satisfy the craving, and hopefully, keep me from landing in one of those diet studies as a statistic!

This summer, satisfaction has come with this delicious Potato Salad that can be made Vegan by using a Vegan Mayonnaise like Spectrum’s, or one you make yourself, and by replacing the eggs with Tofu: about half a block, drained and chopped into cubes.

Click for Print Version

Grounding, tonifying, mineral-rich, refreshing and reassuring, this salad packs substance. It can even serve as a meal unto itself. Hearty and wholesome ~ just the way cravings like to be handled.

Perfect for a Summer Picnic with Avocado and #GF Rice Chips

Ayurvedically, the primary tastes of this meal are Sweet and Bitter and the Action is Cooling, so it is perfect for a Summer picnic. We had it for lunch yesterday served on a bed of Red Leaf Lettuce.

We’d love to hear about your cravings. Please post it in the Comments below as I’d love to dissect its anatomy and even, in a future blog, invent for you a healthier, tastier substitute!
Potato Salad Glee

Learning to listen and love your cravings, needs, desires, and to respond with intelligence and delight is what my Ayurvedic Nutrition & Cooking Classes are all about! I invite you to join us August 7th, 11 am. More details, including the Menu for our Summer Feast, is at DeepYoga.com

Namaste!