Sunshine Soup

#SunshineSoup

It’s all about the light really, isn’t? These holidays ~ Hanukkah, Solstice, Christmas, New Year’s? Aren’t we all in some way, each in our own way, celebrating light? Its sustenance… its return… its birth… its miracle… its warmth… our dependence on it….

carrot #soup

I had a teacher who used to say, “Eat Light. Plants do. Why can’t you?”

In this darkest of seasons, here is a soup of sunlight. With its saffron swirl, it offers vitamins A, D and E to strengthen your color and sight, and selenium to keep your moods sunny and bright. It’s a warm break from winter’s toil, and another good reason to celebrate the return of light, and the approach of a new year.

#tarragon

The brazil nuts offer a rich base note to the carrots’ creamy sweetness, while the tarragon weaves through with a unique pungency, and the orange zest gives that bite of bitter that makes it all beam. It’s so simple, you might be surprised by what a grand dish it makes.

Carrot Tarragon “Sunshine” Soup
Serves 2-3

2 t ghee (or coconut oil)
1/2 t ground turmeric
2 t tarragon, chopped (dried is okay if you can’t find fresh)
1 small onion
3 cloves garlic
1″ piece of ginger, peeled
1 lb carrots
1/4 t sea or pink salt
1 dash red pepper flakes
2 cups vegetable broth
8-10 brazil nuts, lightly toasted
1 orange

Roughly chop your carrots, onion, garlic, ginger. Grate the orange peel to make about a teaspoon of zest and set aside. Juice the orange and measure out about 1/4 cup.

Melt 1 teaspoon ghee in a sauce pan on low heat. Add the turmeric and 1 teaspoon of the tarragon to the ghee and give it a good swirl. Add the chopped vegetables, red pepper flakes and half the salt. Allow this to “sweat” by cooking on low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent.

Turn up the heat, add the broth, and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat so it just lightly boils for about 10-15 minutes, or until the carrots are soft.

Put your toasted brazil nuts, and a bit of the soup mixture in a blender and mix until the nuts are completely broken down and throughly integrated. Pour in the rest of the soup and purée. Add water if the consistency is too thick. Pour the purée back into the sauce pan, cover and warm over a low heat.

Meanwhile, melt the remaining ghee in a small saucepan. Add the remaining salt and tarragon. Stir over a very low heat for about one minute. Turn the heat under the soup off. Stir in the orange juice. Ladle into bowls, drizzle with the tarragon “butter” and sprinkle with orange zest. Serve piping hot.

#sunshinesoup

On a recent day devoted to cleaning out the pantry, we had it for lunch with gf crackers and this cilantro pesto. But it’s not just a worker’s lunch. In elegant bowls garnished with a stalk of fresh tarragon, it would be an inspiring starter for a New Year’s dinner. I’m sure Champagne’s sparkle would delightfully pair with this bowl of sunshine.

I wish you a Happy New Year ~
With light and love in every bite!

#Carrot Tarragon Soup

Thanksgiving Loaf

#Walnut Loaf

Last year over the Thanksgiving holiday we wandered up to Door County, Wisconsin to visit our friend, the unique and immensely talented Hans Christian. On exotic, multi-stringed instruments, Hans plays a music that transports you to sacred heights.

He played a number of these instruments on my husband Bhava’s most recent album Songs of My Soul, which he also produced. So we went up last Thanksgiving to visit, see his studio, and listen to a few of Bhava’s tracks as they were being engineered. This is a cut from that album, over images from my husband’s memoir Warrior Pose.

It turns out that Hans is also a great cook. And while we didn’t get to try it while we were there, he talked us through his favorite Thanksgiving recipe. This is my reconstruct from the barest of notes. I hope it does it justice. It certainly is hearty and delicious – already a tradition in our home.

#walnut loaf

Hans’ Thanksgiving Nut Loaf
Serves 8

4 cups Brown Basmati Rice, cooked
2 cups Walnuts, chopped
2-3 cups Cheddar Cheese, shredded
1 cup Celery, chopped (feel free to add more and be generous with the celery)
2 tablespoons Caraway seeds
4 Eggs
2 tablespoons Tamari
1 tablespoon Ghee (or Coconut Oil), just barely melted
1/2 teaspoon Pink Salt
Fresh-cracked Pepper
Dusting of Red Pepper Flakes, or Cayenne, or my favorite, Aleppo

Set your oven to 400 degrees. Line a loaf pan (8.5 x 4.5) with parchment paper. If you don’t have parchment, oil the bottom and sides with ghee, or coconut oil.

Put 1 tablespoon cheese to the side. In a large bowl, mix together the rice, walnuts, all the rest of the cheese, celery and caraway seeds. Whisk the eggs together and stir into the rice mixture to completely cover. Add the tamari, ghee/oil, salt, and peppers, this time just lightly mixing to spread the seasonings through.

Spoon the mixture into the loaf pan. Use your clean hands, or a spatula, to press down and push it into the corners. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top.

Set the loaf pan in your oven, and cook for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

#Thanksgiving #Walnut Loaf

Served with a sauce like Barbara’s “Best Ever Vegan Gravy” will round out the Thanksgiving flavors. But the true test of Thanksgiving perfection? Friday leftovers! This makes an incredible sandwich by lightly reheating the slices and placing between two pieces of toasted bread generously smeared with a Curried Aioli ~ 2 T Mayo, 1 clove garlic, 1 t lemon juice, and a few shakes of your favorite curry powder stirred together well. Pile on the greens and your feast of thanksgiving just got portable!

#walnut loaf

Bhava’s CD turned out beautifully. For divine music and meals, friends and family, beauty and the quiet solace of  nature and places like Door County ~ we are grateful.

#Hans Christian
~ Click to sample Bhava’s CD ~

We wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving!

*Namaste*

~ ~ ~

Primal Pumpkin Coconut Bread

give thanks #thanksgiving bread
Last week we returned from a Holistic Health Cruise where a variety of presenters discussed a diversity of topics. But when asked, all seemed to agree on one thing: With all the popular diets these days, Paleo, Vegan, Atkins, South Beach, Raw, one’s head could really spin. So what do they all have in common? Avoid processed, refined, packaged, and focus on organic, seasonal, whole, “you could have gathered it yourself” foods. Once again, we return to Ayurveda, where individual differences are appreciated and the only absolute is to source from nature.

#pumpkin bread

So, along comes the divine Drisana Carey with this Primal Pumpkin Bread that had us all begging for the recipe. Before I could even ask,  she was generous enough to drop the book containing the recipe at my doorstep.

It is called “primal” because the recipe aligns with the principles of Mark Sisson’s  Primal Diet, a mature approach to eating like our ancestors, yet thoughtfully considering the stresses and environmental toxins of our modern lifestyles. On his website, where he touts the immense health benefits of pumpkin, Sisson offers an alternative recipe for Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie which actually looks like a great improvement on the usual in terms of both health and taste. 

#thanksgiving pumpkin bread

Speaking of Thanksgiving, this Primal Pumpkin Bread, with all its protein and clean energy, would be a great meal to begin the holiday. After all, it is so real, so whole, so natural, so delicious, you could say it’s the very taste of thanks-giving!

It would also make a great holiday dessert ~ with all the potassium, magnesium, healthy fats and antioxidants to help balance the season’s excesses.

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The creamy frosting makes it especially moist, creamy and teasingly wonderful. You could make it Vegan like the one topping these Lemon Cupcakes, or replace it with something like this Vegan Cinnamon Frosting. And while I love baking up pumpkins, you can also make it quick and easy with a box of pumpkin puree. 

#pumpkin puree

Primal Pumpkin Coconut Cake

1/4 cup ghee or coconut oil, melted
6 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup maple syrup (Drisana substitutes half the maple syrup for molasses “to add iron and potassium”)
1/2 cup cooked pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon clove powder
1/2 teaspoon fresh nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1 apple, chopped
1/2 cup coconut flakes
1/4 cup pecans
3/4 cup dark chocoloate chips

Melt the ghee/coconut oil in a small saucepan and set aside. Grease a bread pan, or muffin tins. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Crack the eggs into the bowl of an electric mixer or into a large mixing bowl. Beat with your mixer or wire whisk. Add in vanilla, maple syrup, pumpkin, and mix until thoroughly combined. Sift coconut flour, ghee or oil, spices, salt, and baking soda. Slowly add the dry mixture to the pumpkin mixture and beat, or whisk, until there are no lumps. Stir in the coconut flakes, chopped apple, pecans and chocolate chips. Pour the batter into your baking dish or muffin tins. Bake for about 30 minutes for bread, or 15 minutes for muffins – in any case it is done when a toothpick comes out clean.

Remove it form the oven and turn onto a wire rack to cool, then generously cover with the Cream Cheese Frosting.

Honey Cream Cheese Frosting
1 cup organic whipped cream cheese (Tofutti for Vegans, or make it yourself)
2 tablespoons cup honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Beat cream cheese, honey and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer until fluffy. Spread on cooled cake.

also best

Drisana brought this delicious cake over to join in celebrating Haunani, who is having a baby in December. Remember Haunani from this post? She is a divine, light-filled, love-drenched soul. We are grateful for her presence in our lives and wish her, husband Tad and their soon-to-emerge baby, perfect health, every happiness, infinite love. We are also grateful to Drisana and Mark Sisson for this gluten-free, nutrient-rich, potent pumpkin pleasure.

What are you grateful for this holiday harvest season?

Namaste!

*

Rose Lassi Recipe & Ghee Giveaway

rose #lassi

Have you ever been to Bhaktifest? It’s a beautiful thing. In addition to Kirtan day and night, fabulous Yoga classes overlooking the desert, divine Yogis everywhere, and a reunion of so many friends, what I love so much about these Festivals is that, more than anywhere outside of Rishikesh, you are surrounded by people who do things that really stir your soul and make your heart sing.

#bhaktifest

Things like: Combine Classical Indian Dance with Yoga…

#Dance Hemalayaa
Hemalayaa Devi (who is returning to The Sophia Conference in December) | Photo: Jeff Skeirik

Preserve indigenous botanical medicines, while nourishing their ancient place, cultures, traditions…

Organic India #Ayurveda #Herbs
Organic India and its founder, author of Turmeric, Prashanti de Jager | Photos: organicindiausa.com

Honor highland Peruvian people with sustainable cultivation and importation of unique, adaptogenic super foods…

Imlak'esh Organics
Imlak’esh Organics | Photos: Owl and Deep Yoga

Or, make ghee for a living.

ancient organics #ghee
Matteo Girard Maxon of Ancient Organics straining ghee upper right | Photos: Ancient Organics

Our master teacher Dr. David Frawley says, “The mind is like a wick. Knowledge (Jnana) is like the flame, but Devotion (Bhakti) is the oil (ghee). Without the oil to sustain the flame, it will merely burn up the wick. So too, a mind that does not have that flow of grace or devotion, can be burned up or dried out by the flame of knowledge. We must remember to keep our Soma flowing.”

Photo: Ancient Organics
Photo: Ancient Organics

Since Bhakti is like ghee, how appropriate that this golden nectar has a central presence at a Festival devoted to Bhakti. Having now sampled it, I can say that Ancient Organics Ghee is the very taste of Soma, the flow of Soma made manifest.

#Ghee

You can make ghee at home, of course, but every now and then it is wonderful to have someone make it for you, especially when it is mindfully small batch brewed, nutty in taste and so authentic.

While at Bhaktifest, I picked up a jar of Ancient Organics’ Niter Kibbeh, a ghee cooked with North African spices. It’s fabulous with everything, and would make a unique hostess gift.

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Niter Kibbeh Ghee

Matteo Girard Maxon, co-founder of Ancient Organics, is offering a full 16 ounce jar of this Soma to one of our readers. All you have to do is comment below. I’ll randomly pick a name/winner next week. Ancient Organics will ship directly to you.

a cup of ghee to start each day
Beginning the day with ghee!

One thing that kept us returning to the Ancient Organics booth was their Rose Lassi. It was nourishing, cool comfort in that high desert, high summer, dry heat.

#Ayurveda Rose Lassi
Rose Lassi

I’ve tried making it at home, and ended up coming up with two versions. The first is according to Matteo’s instructions, at least so far as I remembered. The second is quick and easy.

It was my first time making rose syrup, and I wanted to make it as healthy as possible, so I adapted it a bit. Let me know what you think. I’d love to hear if you think you can improve upon my efforts.

pink roses gave a creamy color
pink roses gave a creamy color

ROSE LASSI (Click Here for Print Version)
2-4 servings

For the Syrup:

Roses, organic or wild-crafted, 1 dozen
Coconut Sugar, 1/2 cup
Ghee, 1 teaspoon
Water, 1 cup

For the Lassi:

Full-fat Yogurt, 1 cup (or your favorite non-dairy alternative)
Rose Syrup, 1/3 cup
Rose Water, 1 teaspoon
Cardamom powder, 1 good strong shake
Himalayan Pink Salt, 1-2 hearty pinches
Raw Honey, 1 tablespoon
Water, 1/4 cup

#rose syrup
Making the Syrup: 1. Rose Petals, 2. Water, 3. Coconut Sugar, 4. Heat

To Make the Rose Syrup:

Put the ghee and coconut sugar in a 1-quart sauce pot, and stir together until melted and combined. Add the petals of all 12 roses and cover with water. Bring to a boil and turn heat down to keep at a light, slow simmer. Stir occasionally until the mixture reduces to a brown, thin syrup, about 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool.

creamy lassi
I skipped the blender and put it straight into a glass jar but you have to shake, shake, shake!

To Make the Lassi:

In a blender, add the yogurt, rose syrup, rose water, spices, honey and water and blend on a low speed just to break up the yogurt and make it liquidy and smooth. Depending on how you like your lassi, you might want to add more water for a thinner consistency. Taste, adjust to your liking, and serve.

Keep refrigerated for up to three days.

rosey lassi
Ancient Organics Rose Lassi was really pink while mine turned out more creamy in color

If that seems like too many steps, you can try this simpler version. It’s almost as good.

Simple Rose Lassi

1 cup of your favorite creamy Yogurt
1 cup water
1 t Rose Water
1 T Raw Organic Honey
1 good shake Cardamom
1 pinch Pink Salt
Petals of 1 Rose

Put it all in a blender and give it a good whirl. Adjust cardamom, rose water, pink salt until it is absolutely like drinking heaven. Enjoy!

good_rose lassi
With the simpler version, I used red rose petals to give it more color


So, why is Rose Lassi good for you, especially in high sumer, the high desert, or if you have high Pitta?
I’ll leave it to the experts at Maharishi Ayurveda to explain, which they do beautifully here.

Yogurt is also great for balancing Vata, and as we enter Autumn, our Vata season, I find myself just craving it. If you’d like to learn more about right diet for Autumn, I invite you to join us for our ten day Autumn Cleanse coming up on October 5th. You can learn about it and register here.

Photo: Owl
Deep Yoga at Bhakiftest| Photo: Owl

But back to Bhakitfest…

#bhava
Deep Yoga at Bhaktifest | Photo: Owl

Bhava made this video of our classes at Bhaktifest, which were so juicy thanks to all the Yogis who arrive so ready to give and to love.

Photo: Owl
Deep Yoga at Bhaktifest | Photo: Owl

We are going to be teaching again at Shaktifest next May. Tickets are half price though September here, if you’d like to join us for this festival of heart. Also, Floracopiea is offering a free webcast today of Dr. Frawley talking about Soma: The Nectar of Rejuvenation. You can access that here.

Karnamrita & Gina Sala
Karnamrita & Gina Sala | Photo: Lakshmi Grace / facebook.com/lakshmigracedesigns

Hope to see you next May at Shaktifest or next year at Bhaktifest. Meanwhile, as Dr. Frawley says, “Keep your Soma flowing.”

With Hemalayaa
With Hemalayaa

Namaste!

~

CONGRATULATIONS TO ROBYN FIELD WHO WILL BE RECEIVING ANCIENT ORGANICS’ WONDERFUL GHEE! 

Related articles

Vegetable Kofta

It is our last few moments in Rishikesh. Bhava and I are packed and ready to go. Dehradun. Delhi. Newark. San Diego. 36 hours of travel.

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It is worth it. To sit by the Ganges, Hike in the Himalayas. Listen to sages. Be in the presence of enlightened ones. Meet international Yogis, adepts and Sadhaks. Soak in the bhav’ with my Bhava.

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We were up early this morning, enjoying our final hours with “Ma Ganga” ~ Meditating in the predawn by the huge window in our room that overlooks this storied river; listening to her soothing yet powerful flow, while stirred by the punctuating cries of pilgrims heading to pay homage to Shiva at Neelkanth Temple, on the eve of Shivaratri. Then to the Ghat for Puja, flowers for Ma Ganga, and Sadhana with our fellow Deep Yogis.

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We just had an early lunch at the Green Hotel before our beloved friend Madhav heads over to fetch us for the airport.

What did we have for our last meal? Why Palak Paneer, of course, along with Vegetable Kofta, a kind of Vegan Meatballs in a curry sauce, without meat,  wheat, eggs ~ just pure delight. It’s the ultimate comfort food. Something I need lots of now, as departing this heavenly realm is never easy for me.

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With this last hour, we could go back to the river, but at this point, that feels maudlin. It is hard enough to leave. Just thinking about it, my heart starts to crack. Instead, we look forward, thinking about all that we have to return to  ~ our precious family, our friends, students, fellow Yogis, even our own holy waters – the Pacific.

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I am also looking forward to sharing some of the Indian specialties we’ve enjoyed here, starting with these delightful Koftas.

Kofta

While it includes a few “exotic” ingredients, the spices are usually carried by Whole Foods or  your local spice shop. Otherwise, order in small quantities online from a reputable purveyor. Having said that, it does require one special ingredient: Gram flour. Also known as Besam, it is simply ground chickpea and is used in cooking, in natural home remedies for skincare, and in Ayurvedic treatments all over India.

Apart from having a high protein content, when mixed with an equal proportion of water, gram flour can be used as an egg-replacer in vegan cooking. You can find it at any Asian or Indian market, but in the meantime bread crumbs will work.

Vegetable Kofta Curry

Koftas

1 c Cabbage
1 Carrot
1 Red Pepper
1 c Broccoli and/or Cauliflower
2 Bananas
1 Onion, chopped fine
2 T Gram flour (or bread crumbs)
1 t Garam Masala
1 t Ginger Paste
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 t lemon juice
Himalayan salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 T Peanut Oil (an alternative could be coconut)

Curry

1 c Tomato purée
1/2 Onion chopped
1 t Chili paste
1/2 t Ginger paste
1/2 t Garlic Paste
1 t Cumin seeds
2 t Coconut powder (flour)
1 t Fenugreek seeds (or powder)
1 t Turmeric
1 t Coriander
1 t Cayenne
2-3 Green chillies, sliced fine (or 1 t cayenne powder)
1 c Water
2 T Oil (ghee, Coconut Oil, Safflower Oil, etc.)
1/4 c Cilantro, chopped

Grate the vegetables for the Kofta and mix together in a bowl with the rest of the Kofta ingredients. Wet your hands with water and with your hands divide into 10-12 small portions and roll into round balls. Fry the koftas in hot oil until they brown all over (I will try baking these instead), and put to the side.

To make the curry sauce, heat the oil in a pan and toast the fenugreek seeds for about 1 minute. Add the cumin seeds and onion. Sauté until it turns a golden brown.

Stir in the ginger paste, coconut powder, spices and salt. After about 1 minute, add in the tomato purée and the water and bring to a boil.

Add the koftas made earlier and cook for 5 minutes.

Garnish with chopped coriander and serve with paratha or roti.

This recipe is a westernized  amalgam of two very different recipes from Cooking with Sapana  and Sindhi Rasoi to whom I am so grateful. If you make these before I get home, please let me know how you like them, and what adaptions you make.

~

Meanwhile, how about coming with us to India next year? It is not only magical, it is life-changing. And the food is endless delight!
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Be home soon! Namaste! 

A Few Ideas for Breakfast

Great CU
Buckwheat Cakes

I have a client who loves Quinoa and spinach for breakfast. It sounds good to me, especially with a light touch of cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric and ghee or coconut oil. She adds a splash of GF Tamari. Some days I might add raisins, too.

I like Rice Pudding for breakfast and would definitely add raisins to that. Rice pudding is also a happy home for cooked dates, apples, bananas, blueberries, cranberries, cherries, almonds, pistachios, sesame seeds, and coconut flakes. I think of rice that way: a happy home for most things.

But what I’ve been having for breakfast lately I’ll say with a whisper, for fear that some of my Ayurveda friends would not approve (“Hot hot, hot,” they repeat, like the Nanny to Eloise).

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Almond Butter & Mango

It’s a wake-me-up-with-a-smile plate of sunny mango slathered with earthy almond butter, and a few bite size pieces of grape juice-sweetened ginger. I’m going Paleo, my friends….

Or at least I am enjoying how strikingly the latest craze, the Paleo Diet is such a briliant modern repackaging of the ancient wisdom we call Ayurveda: Eat what you can get your hands on ~ your own hands if you were left out in a jungle, or forest, or open savannah long enough to have to find your own food. In other words, eat food. Real food. Food of every shape, color and size. A wide variety, but mostly plants. Your body will take care of the rest.

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A Paleo friend celebrates Super Bowl Sunday with bacon roses | Photo: Marriott

I am not really going Paleo, of course, although I do appreciate its dynamic approach to reducing junk and focusing on high quality. I even like its focus on protein, although its emphasis on animal flesh isn’t for me.

Our 15 year old offers a history lesson: animals weren’t always easy to kill. Many were dangerous and just as likely to kill you. Paleolithic people had to hunt long and hard for their meaty animals, and when they did bring one home after their equivalent of a long day at the office, it was split amongst a tribe of say 10-20 people.

Yes, those were the days when he-men were devoted to the public good: sharing dinner with friends, stoking the communal fires, stewarding and safeguarding the community at large, carrying the heavy load for the womenfolk, teaching the children and contributing to the health and care of all.

I digress. It is easy to get lost in this Paleo wonderland.

So, our Paleo comrades probably did not eat bacon at every meal even if our modern-day Paleo friends would like to. In fact, one scientist suggests that our paleolithic ancestors were far more likely to subsist on tubers and termites!

For us, the simple everyday rule to healthy eating is this: whole food, plant based. The focus on unprocessed is where we celebrate our shared similarities!

Buckwheat Cakes
Buckwheat Cakes with Yogurt and Honey

Anyway, if you are a Neanderthal, or a HIT (High Intensity Trainer), and you want to really go Paleo, how about making up these quick buckwheat cakes? Topped with a cage-free, organic egg, pesto, a bit of cheddar, or honey and yogurt (non-dairy, of course), it makes a hearty meal for any caveman.

Buckwheat Cakes
Less fluffy than pancakes, and thicker than crepes, these “cakes” are delicious with Almond Butter, Yogurt and Honey, Maple Syrup, pesto and melted cheese. Really, anything that needs a base.  They might even be wonderful drizzled with chocolate. Let your creativity play and let us know what  you discover.

BUCKWHEAT CAKE RECIPE
adapted from Martha Schulman’s Buckwheat Crepes

1/2 cup Almond Milk
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup Buckwheat Flour
1/3 cup Almond Flour/Meal
3 tablespoons melted ghee, or your favorite high heat Oil
Water

Place the milk, eggs and salt in a blender or a bowl. Blend, or whip with a fork to mix thoroughly. Add the flours, then add the oil, and mix well.

Place a 7 to 8-inch pan over medium heat. Brush with ghee or oil. When the pan is hot, remove from the heat and ladle in about 3 tablespoons batter. Tilt or swirl the pan to distribute the batter evenly, and return to the heat. Cook until you can easily loosen the edges with a spatula. Turn and cook on the other side for 1 minute. Turn onto a plate. Continue until all of the batter is used.

Yield: About 5-6 pancakes

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For me, my Almond butter slathered Mangos keeps me happy, daydreaming about the days when were were all swinging through the forest happily gathering mangoes, bananas, and all variety of exotic fruit, as if it were an Eden of delight made just for us. Meanwhile, I give thanks to a modern world where every kind of delicious fruit is just a short walk away, and a modern belly that has had the intelligence to adapt, so I’m not stuck eating tubers and termites!

How do you keep mornings inspired? What do you eat for breakfast? What do you do to maintain strength and energy? I am curious and would love to hear about your creativity and routines.

Salutations and Santé!

~

Melissa Bechter of Vegenista recently joined me for my Ayurvedic Winter Cleanse and shared with me this photograph of the Paleo Pancakes she made on our "Integration Weekend." Thanks, Melissa!
Melissa Bechter of Vegenista recently joined me for my Ayurvedic Winter Cleanse and shared with me this photograph of the Paleo Pancakes she made on our “Integration Weekend.” Thanks, Melissa!

Detox Dal: Healing Lentil Soup

LentilSoup_1

I have been pulling together a new website, and prepping for a new course called Radiant You: Ageless Beauty and Balance (details coming), and all I’ve been wanting for lunch each day is this hearty Lentil soup ~ which is great because it is part of a One Day Detox we will be doing at the start of the Radiant You program, and it’s great to be able to speak to its power not only to detox, but also to seduce.

Detox Lentil Soup
Makes 2-4 servings

1 cup Lentils
1 cup Red Quinoa, cooked
1/2 cup Onion, chopped
1-2 clove Garlic (or 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder), minced
1-2 teaspoons Ghee (alternatively: coconut, safflower or peanut oil)
1 scant teaspoon Garam Masala (or 1 pinch each: turmeric, coriander, ginger, cinnamon, cumin and/or clove)
1 Carrot, quartered and chopped
1 stalk Celery, cut into small pieces
1 cup Kale, stalks removed, leaves torn into small bits
2 cups Vegetable Broth (I like Pacific Foods Low Sodium)
Hingvastak, or Hing/Asafotida, optional
Coconut or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, or Tamari (gluten-free) to taste

Rinse lentils and drain. Melt ghee over medium heat. Sprinkle in spices and sauté one minute. Add onion and cook a few minutes until it softens. Stir in lentils until thoroughly coated. Add carrot, celery, kale and cook a moment. Turn heat to high and add vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, then cover and turn heat to low.

Cook 20-25 minutes. Stir in Hingvastak, optionally. Ladle the quinoa into bowls and pour the soup over. Season with Amino Acids or Tamari to taste.

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Even if you don’t join us for the One Day Detox, along with four weeks of Radiant You, I hope you will enjoy this wintery soup. Please let me know.

Namaste!

Ojai Valley Inn’s Gingerbread Cookies

Ojai InnLooking for something serene and a bit special for our end of the year retreat we took the advice of our Ginseng Yoga Studio co-owner Cindy Bennett and headed to the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa.  We arrived just in time to wander about before dark, to enjoy the natural setting and get our bearings.

Ojai Mountains

Have you ever walked through a grove of Eucalyptus after the rain?  It is one of the things I most love about southern California winters, and one of the delights that greeted us as we explored this beautiful valley. Eventually we stopped at one of the many restaurants at the Inn, the causal  Cafe Verde, to peek at a possibility for breakfast in the morning, and possibly warm up with a cup of tea.

Oak Grill

Instead we came upon a group of families gathered around the large open kitchen, where the chef was giving a Cooking Demonstration, showing the children how to make Gingerbread Cookies. I didn’t get there in time to take photos of the demonstration, or of the kids, but I did get the recipe!

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It is not Ayurvedic to eat a lot of sugar, but if we put that aside, and if you make this with Ghee and gluten-free, then you have a fairly healthy cookie. After all, the spices are Ayurvedic, exactly the ones we use to fan the digestive fires, which might be helpful this season, no? I mean, who couldn’t use a little more fire in the winter?

Making gingerbread

Gingerbread Cookies

3 cups flour, I’d use gluten-free: like Bob’s Red Mill
1 1/2 t Baking Powder
3/4 t Baking Soda
1/4 t Salt
1 T ground Ginger
1 3/4 t Cinnamon
1/4 t Cloves
6 Ghee
3/4 c Coconut Sugar
1 large Egg
1/2 cup Molasses
2 t Vanilla

In a small bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves until well-blended.

In a large bowl, beat butter, brown sugar, and egg on medium speed until well-blended. Add molasses and vanilla and continue until well blended. Gradually stir in dry ingredients until blended and smooth.

Divide dough in half. Set in two bowls and cover. Let sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours and up to 8.

Preheat oven to 375F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Place 1 portion of the dough on a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle flour over dough and your rolling pin. Roll dough out until it is 1/4-inch thick. Use your gingerbread cookie cutter to cut out cookies. Place cookies on the baking sheets about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake 1 sheet at a time for 7-10 minutes.  Remove from oven. Allow to stand until cookies are firm, then move to a wire rack. Once cookies are cool, decorate away!

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Wishing you a Joyful Holiday and a Happy New Year!

Namaste!

~

All photos are from the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa website, with permission. 

Related Posts I’ve enjoyed:
Stephanie Weaver’s GF Gingerbread Cupcakes
Whitney Kear’s Pumpkin Cake
Kerala Rose’s Indian Buttery Cookie

Grief Tonic

angel childGrief is serious, and right now there is a lot, sadly too much, going around.

When my father died, I woke up every day with a pain that felt like my front body had been torn off. Even as I stood, went to work, engaged in daily life, I felt doubled over, gripped with that wrenching, twisting, searing pain. Life was hallucinatory: pretending to be fine while a screaming ache echoed through my hollow insides.

Recently science has been able to demonstrate that the physical pain of grief is real. According to Scientific American, circuits of the cortical pain network become activated when you experience such deep loss. “Grief – in its most basic form – represents an alarm reaction set off by a deficit signal in the behavioural system underlying attachment,” writes psychology professor John Archer of the University of Central Lancashire in his book The Nature of Grief.

While your entire neurobiological system is trying to adjust to radically altered circumstances, mapping possibilities for survival, naturally, you don’t feel like eating. But you have to.

Banana Tonic

When we were grieving, my sister and I ate bananas and yogurt. This Tonic is based on those two simple ingredients, plus a few everyday, enhancing foods. It is easy to fix up, and easy to sip, swallow and digest. It carries enough basic nutrition to keep you strong until you can stomach a proper meal, which itself should be cooked and highly digestible: hearty soups are best, or comfort foods like pb&j or rice pudding.

Sweet is the key taste, but NOT processed sugar. If you are doing the grocery shopping, focus on fresh fruits, dried dates and nuts, avocados, root vegetables, soups and grains that are easy to prepare, and foods high in protein, B vitamins and Omegas, like eggs or salmon.

Please resist the tendency to reach for pizza, pasta, frozen or microwaveable “convenience” foods, chips, cakes, cookies, muffins.  Wheat is genetically altered in a way that makes it hard to digest. Frozen and microwaved food is biologically altered, and hard to metabolize. Your system right now needs easy. It has enough to do just trying to “digest” life. Feed yourself real food, nature’s own convenience food – banana, avocado, apples, dates, pears, soft cheeses, nuts, grains.

Grief Tonic
1-2 servings

1 ripe banana
1 cup apple juice
1 cup yogurt, preferably non-dairy: coconut, almond, your favorite
2-3 dates
1 T maple syrup, or more to taste
1 shake cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg, freshly grated is best
dash turmeric, optional
5-6 grains of salt, sea or pink

Blend well and serve at room temperature. Do not serve cold. Grief is cold enough.

Bananas and Cream

In an 1843 letter to his second cousin, Reverend William Darwin Fox, Charles Darwin wrote, “Strong affections have always appeared to me, the most noble part of a man’s character and the absence of them an irreparable failure; you ought to console yourself with thinking that your grief is the necessary price for having been born with such feelings.”

angel and child

God Bless the Children, and all who suffer.
May you be embraced by a host of heavenly angels and carried to the light.
Our prayers are with you. 

Angel and child

Soup for Sophia

What do you serve for lunch at The Sophia Conference?

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After a huge morning of friendship, inspiration, art, poetry, yoga, contemplation, dance, music, beauty, laughter, sisterly sharing and divine feminine wisdom that is so whole-person, whole-earth, whole-span-of-existence, deep-down nourishing that you feel perfectly filled up in that satisfying, down-to-the-bones sort of way…

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How do you create a feast to follow Anne-Emilie Gold Cultivating the Voice of the Sacred Feminine

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Or Shannon Thompson of Shakti Rising leading women back to their “sacral truths,” remaining in that raw place long enough to heal the wounds of competition and betrayal, so we can join together as sisters, promising to honor, respect, protect, defend… and speak truth to one another.

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Sharing and releasing, laughing, loving and learning can be hungry work! How then create a bounty to warm and nourish beautiful bellies, and match the grace of the day?

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Last year’s Tuscan White Bean Soup was hearty, and especially suitable for the stormy day we had. But while that is a vegetarian soup, and utterly delicious, it is not vegan nor gluten-free. We had an alternative soup on hand, but were surprised by how many chose the alternative, and saddened to have a divide in our culinary experience when united is the very purpose of the day.

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So this year our Ayurvedic lunch would be vegan and gluten-free. Inspired by recipes found throughout this blog, and prepared with enormous, enormous help from Paige Sapp and Liscia DiGiacomo who poured great love and devotion into “all this yumminess,” and Georgia Ferrell whose detailed, attentive and fluid orchestration was priceless, we managed to serve a feast of replenishment. Hopefully, it inspired more divine realizations, authentic voicing, truth-telling and sacred connections.

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So what did we serve? Lunch centered around a Curried Vegetable Ragout, something my mother, appropriately for this occasion, calls Thanksgiving Harvest Stew. We made it Vegan by replacing the ghee with coconut oil, leaving out the Korma sauce (contains milk) and instead doubling up on the spices, adding chopped tomatoes and an additional cup of Coconut Milk (which we had fresh, as we were also making Coconut Yogurt and had coconuts galore).

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We also left out the yellow pepper and festive cranberries, adding instead heaps of zucchini, spinach, bok choy and chard, and garnishing it with toasted pepitas for a healthy crunch.

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We served it with hearty breads, gluten-free crackers, a variety of  Seasonal Salads,  Rosemary Roasted Vegetables, this Coconut Yogurt, a vegan Raita made with Coconut Yogurt, this Cilantro Pesto and a gorgeous bowl of Yam Puree.

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For dessert, it was a Fruit Compote with fresh Coconut Creme, organic, fair trade Chocolate of every shade, and Carolyn Kull’s I Am Awakening Raw Key Lime Pie, a recipe everyone wanted.

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Altogether it was a symphony of flavors, a rising harmony with a light, clean resolve. Much like the Sophia Conference itself: integrating, uplifting, energizing, satisfying.

I think food should be like that: a complement, a support, a reflection, a symphony even. For food, after all, is a love story.

I hope you will love this ~

Soup for Sophia

4 tbsp coconut oil
1 T curry powder
1  t ginger powder
1 t garam masala
1/4 t ground red pepper, preferably something rich like ancho or aleppo
1  yellow onion, chopped fine
3-4 cloves garlic
1 potato, chopped into small pieces
4 carrots, diced into bite-size coins
2 celery stalks, diced
1 head cauliflower, broken into small pieces
1 lb. french beans, cut in thirds
1 zucchini, chopped into bite size pieces
4 cups vegetable broth
1 bunch kale, torn into pieces
1 bunch collards, chard or bok choy, torn
1 bunch spinach
optional vegetables: broccolini, yellow crookneck squash, snap peas
2 heirloom tomatoes,  chopped and seeded
1 can organic coconut milk
salt and pepper, to taste
½ cup pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, or pecan pieces, toasted
optional: gluten free tamari, to taste

Clean and prepare all the vegetables. Melt oil in a large pot over medium low heat. Add spices and sauté for one minute. Stir in onion and cook until transparent. Add the garlic and stir.  Add the potato and sauté until its edges begin moving towards translucence. Stir in carrots and celery, and sauté another few minutes. Add cauliflower, french beans and zucchini. Stir thoroughly to coat all the vegetables.

Add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce heat to low for five to ten minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, then add the greens. After 3-5 minutes mix in the coconut milk. Allow to simmer a few minutes so the flavors and juices merge. Season to taste.

Garnish with nuts or seeds, and serve warm with your favorite bread or crackers.

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Immense gratitude to Tara Eby of In-Sight Photography for these images that really helped capture the soul of Sophia. If you are interested in learning more about “Sophia” activities, or can help us move towards non-profit status, you are invited to visit  Sophia.

#fruit compote

Since “everyone” wanted the I Am Awakening Key Lime Pie recipe, I am giving away a copy of Cafe Gratitude’s I AM Gratitude Recipe Book  as a Sophia Gift. Please comment below. Let us know your favorite recipe for cultivating the divine feminine.  I’ll pick at random from commentors early next week.

P.S. Congratulations to Amy Steckdaub for winning the book. Fully deserved as you give us so much of your time and love in service to The Sophia Conference.

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Namaste!

 

Curried Pumpkin Ravioli

This is something where you might want to cheat.

That is, some might call it cheating… just please know that if you are in a hurry, or tired at the end of the day, there is a quick way of doing this which will get you the same elegant meal in almost no time.

As for me, over the Thanksgiving weekend I came up with a new motto ~ Move like a swan, slow and easyIt is a pace I try to remember when dashing to and fro. “Celebrate your Kapha,” I remind myself.

Slowing down has wonderful implications in every area of life, perhaps nowhere more sweetly than in the kitchen ~ especially when there are children volunteering to help.

So, if you have an adorable niece or a couple of kitchen loving children, and you are not in any great hurry, I invite you to consider making these curried pumpkin dumplings from scratch. You might make it a dedication to the slow food movement : preparing, tasting, digesting, and enjoying each moment together – adagio, as the Italians who started the movement might say.

Because we wanted them gluten-free, a good idea for everyone these days, we wrapped the pumpkin purée in rice paper. The result is a bit like a dumpling, with a great texture and taste, and kid-friendly fun to make.

But as I said, you can do this in about ten minutes if that is what serves you best. Just purchase pumpkin ravioli pre-packaged, but freshly made, of course. Cook according to directions, and serve with the bok choy, persimmon and truffle sauce. It will be every bit as good… especially if you savor slowly!

Curried Pumpkin Ravioli with Bok Choy, Persimmon & Truffle Oil
Serves 4

Rice Paper
1 lb pumpkin purée: make it yourself, or choose a pure purée like Pacific Food’s
3 tablespoon ghee, or Earth Balance Spread if you are Vegan
3-4 shallots, very finely chopped
2 teaspoons curry spice
1 teaspoon clove
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3-4 tablespoons finely grated parmesan or pecorino cheese, optional
2 leeks
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 head bok choy, torn into pieces
1 persimmon, chopped
3-4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
truffle oil, keep it real
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted
salt and pepper

Melt 1 tablespoon ghee in a medium saucepan over a medium heat. Add shallots, curry, clove and nutmeg, and sauté until shallots are translucent. Fold in the pumpkin purée and mix well. Warm thoroughly, turn off heat, and stir in 1 tablespoon cheese if you are using.

Prepare a large baking tray with a thin film of olive oil. Wet your rice paper one at a time, according to package directions. Shake off excess water and lay on a large plate. Place one spoonful of curried pumpkin on the rice paper 1.5 inches from the bottom edge. Fold this edge over the purée to cover it completely. Fold in the sides, and roll up. You should end up with one side transparent and the other side covered with many layers of rice paper. If there are too many rice paper folds it will get chewy. In that case you can cut the ends off with scissors.

Place each finished roll on your lightly oiled tray. Once you have rolled up all the curried pumpkin purée, cover the tray very lightly with a damp towel and set aside.

Melt 2 tablespoons ghee. Sauté coriander seeds one minute on medium low heat. Stir in garam masala. Allow it to fizzle for a few seconds then add the leeks and cook until they soften. Stir in the garlic, bok choy, persimmon. Turn up the heat and sprinkle generously with balsamic vinegar. Toss and cook a few minutes, until it gives off a sweet aroma. Turn off the heat. Place the pumpkin ravioli dumplings on top of this bok choy mixture and cover to warm the pumpkin filling.

Divide and transfer gently to your plates. Drizzle with truffle oil, and sprinkle with hazelnuts.  Serve with the remaining parmesan cheese in a small bowl on the side, for those who are not Vegan.

I served it on a bed of spinach and followed it with a simple arugula salad.

I hope you enjoy this. Let me know, along with whatever wonderful twists and tastes you add, and who you choose to share with you this slow food moment.

Above all, I’d love to hear : what makes you feel nourished with gratitude?

I wish you a golden blessings and everything to be grateful for!

Namaste!

~

Want to keep it simple and traditional? Here is an alternative – a beautifully illustrated, hand-made pumpkin ravioli from Amanda Marshall. If you try it, send a photo and let me know what you think.

Cardamom Rice Pudding

rice pud'“As many of you know, last week, a crazy frankenstorm named Sandy hit the East Coast of the U.S. leaving millions without power, thousands evacuated from/lost their homes, several lost their lives, and it wreaked chaos and havoc across the northeastern seaboard, and affected people as far west as the Appalachians,” wrote Jenn Oliver of JennCuisine and Barb Kiebel of Creative Culinary on their blogs earlier this week.

In response to the devastation, Jenn and Barb had a great idea. “Food brings people together in good times and bad, and food can bring us together this time, to help those in need. We decided to create this event to bring the food blogging community together, so that we can join hands, and meals, and support for the victims of Sandy.”

So they asked food bloggers “that you post a comfort dish on your blog and share this need with your readers” and to post today, November 8th, with “something that you would make for someone in need, to help them feel at home. But more importantly, let’s encourage everyone to donate to relief efforts.”

rice pudding

I wanted to do this right away. We are so far from our friends and family back East and feel so helpless as we watch them valiantly respond. If only we could invite them in, give them shelter, warm food, loving support and quiet refuge. We can’t do that in person. We can’t serve up comfort food live. But we can do something more important…  we can support them with our donations to and let them know how much we care.

Basmati Rice

As I thought about it, I knew I wanted to create something that would be satisfyingly comforting. Not just comfort food that fills you up, making you feel full but also regretful, but comfort food that comforts and nourishes.

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I also wanted it to be something that you could make with ingredients you’re likely to have at home, so that whatever storms you are facing in your life, you can stay in, get cozy and make up a warm bowl of nurturing comfort. After all, food is a love story, and comfort food should be like a mother’s loving embrace.

So in honor of all the heroes and survivors, I offer a warm bowl of Rice Pudding, and invite the rest of us to make whatever contributions possible to help our Eastern neighbors.

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This Rice Pudding makes a delicious breakfast, snack or dessert. It is especially Vata-reducing – great for children, anyone recuperating, and anyone needing a pick-me-up. I hope you will try it and let me know what you think.

Riso Pudding Cropped

There is still time to post your own favorite comfort food to your blog and help with Support for Sandy. Go to Jenn Cuisine for details. And there is always time to make a donation to the Red Cross to support those in the path of Hurricane Sandy, many of whom remain without power, even now as another huge storm hits.

To all those who suffer anywhere, our hearts are with you!

Deep Sleep Tonic

deep sleep tonicThis is one of my basic staples ~ great for calming Vata, or any space-y, scattered, restless, anxious, busy, can’t settle down sort of energy. It is such a basic staple that for years I’ve had it on the Basics page. But people were always asking me for the recipe and not finding it there, so I’m posting it here for all to see, share and enjoy.

Rod Stryker of Para Yoga described it to us many years ago, tossing it out casually as something Pandit Rajmani Tigunait gave him after too much work, too much travel, and too much of an overwhelming need for the land of nod.

In translation and over time the recipe may have been modified, so I can’t promise you it is exact according to Ayurvedic tradition (which likes its exactitudes). What I do know is that it is resoundingly, deliciously potent, and seems to work for everyone.

Try taking it an hour before bed for a night of sweet dreams and deep slumber.

As this extraordinary, whole food, medicinal drink came without a name, we nicknamed it Ojas Rasayana. Here’s why:

Ojas is the Ayurveda word for deep nourishment, our underlying reserves of energy. Ojas gives patience, contentment, longevity,  stamina, endurance, strength, stability. In the Autumn, when Vata dominates, Ojas is available to us through seasonal foods like root vegetables, grains, ghee, nuts and seeds, dates, raisins and sweet Autumn fruits.

Rasayana is a grand word used in many contexts, including an entire branch of Ayurveda. Generally it means rejuvenative, and more modernly, anti-aging, stress-reducing. According to Ayurvedic Dr. Vaidya Mishra, “Rasayana is the designation given to special herbs, fruits and spices, or combinations of them, that are particularly renowned for the positive influence they have on overall health, vitality and longevity.”

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The ultimate nourishment, of course, is love, and a delicious tonic like this is a rich reminder that food is a nourishing love story.

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If you do not know what ghee is, where to find it or how to make it, check out this post with a video demonstrating how easy it is to make.

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Gentle Yoga is wonderful in the evening to prepare you for a deep sleep, or any time you want to unwind and come home to yourself. I offer you this gift of a 10 minute, simple practice that can be done any time, any where, and hope it brings you peace.

~

Namaste!

Photos and Illustrations: Getty Images

Please note:  If this tonic does not seem to work for you, it may be a sign of a deeper imbalance, which you might want to take to your health practitioner.

How to Make Ghee

Ayughritam   Ghee is Life

What is Ghee?

The marvelous people at Ancient Organics tell us ~  “In India, ghee has always been a sacred and celebrated symbol of auspiciousness, nourishment and healing; especially in the daily rituals of cooking and worship.”

Ghee is a premium cooking oil celebrated for its taste, nutritional benefits, and medicinal qualities. Ayurveda, the ancient medical science of India, recognizes ghee as an essential part of a balanced diet, and considers it to be the best fat one can eat. Ghee is the very essence of butter; the end result of a long, slow, careful clarification process that removes all the moisture, milk solids and impurities. The absence of milk solids and water in ghee make it completely shelf stable. Ghee has one of the highest flash points (485ºF) which make this oil the best choice for high temperature cooking.”

Making it is simple, but if you’d rather purchase, contact Ancient Organics and see if they can ship to you.

Thanks to my extraordinary husband, Bhavaji who made the video and really is my every day bucket of ghee.

Namaste! 

Healing Apple Sauce

Jamie Grill, Getty Images
Apples are great for a cleanse. With so much pectin, they help clean out the intestinal tract, while fortifying your body with vitamins and minerals, and cooling properties that love the liver. If you are joining us for the Spring Detox Challenge, or whenever you are cleansing, it is great to keep some apple sauce on hand, in case you find you need a snack.
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To detoxify the body in Spring, we want to increase Agni and improve the energies of elimination. We also want ease of digestion ~ to give the belly an internal rest, so it can repair. With Apple Sauce, because the apple is chopped and heated (in other words, slightly pre-digested), it maintains its essential qualities without straining digestion. And it tastes great, so you never feel deprived.
It is simple to make. Here is what I do:
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Healing Apple Sauce Recipe
1 serving

1/4 t ghee
1 apple
1/4 c water

cinnamon
Optional: cardamom, nutmeg

Melt ghee. Add cinnamon, and optionally nutmeg, cardamom or your favorite spice. Chop one apple and stir it in with the ghee. Add water. Bring to a light simmer. Turn the heat to low and cover for 5 minutes. Mash with a Potato masher or, once it is cooled, mix in the blender for a smoother consistency. Serve warm.
Hope you enjoy it.
Namaste ~  

Six Reasons to Celebrate with Chocolate

Raw Chocolate Truffles on Daniel Max’s Blog

How do you feel about Valentine’s Day? Best day of the year, or commercial imposition? Invention of the Hallmark industry, or a wonderful reminder to love, love, love?

However you see it, most of us seem to agree ~ the day presents a delicious opportunity to enjoy one of nature’s most luscious gifts: Chocolate. Scientifically named Theobroma, or food of the gods, chocolate treats us to a heavenly experience, pointing to the feast that is our divine nature.

Being divine means that chocolate is good for you ~ as long as it is raw, unfussed, and minimally processed, of course. Here are six good reasons why.

Six Reasons to Celebrate with Chocolate

Chocolate Reduces Pitta

Chocolate will transport you from peeved to passionate in one time-stopping, evocative bite. When my Pitta clients sheepishly admit to a daily indulgence in dark chocolate, I congratulate them. Sometimes there is nothing better than chocolate to help you release stress and restore a deep, sweet breath. Just one bite is the perfect medicine.

The Science: My friend Nicole Plaisted, Herbalist, Medicine Woman, co-founder of San Diego Herb Co. and a Theobroma Expertoma explains, “Chocolate contains PEA, a chemical known as the molecule of love. This same chemical is found in Blue Green Algae and is known to increase concentration and focus by balancing the right and left hemispheres of the brain. It is one of the reasons we crave chocolate.”

Chocolate is Anti-aging

Chocolate helps keep you looking young and feeling great, while quietly, potently staving off disease.

The Science:  Chocolate is off the charts on the ORAC Index, which measures antioxidants. According to Nicole, “Cacao has the highest antioxidant content of any known food. Antioxidants slow the aging process by preserving cells and preventing their decay.”

Italian researchers found that eating 100 grams of dark chocolate a day for 15 days lowered blood pressure in a 15-person study. This University of L’Aquila team also found that the body’s ability to metabolize sugar was improved. Both results are credited to antioxidant levels.

Chocolate Makes You Smart

Chocolate is loaded with minerals that feed the neural networks, balancing brain chemistry, enhancing memory, increasing clarity and combating depression.

The Science: “Mineral rich foods can be hard to come by but fortunately the food that we love most of all is one of the most mineral dense foods we can eat,” says Nicole. “High in magnesium and iron, Cacao nourishes our nerves, brain, heart, bones, and supports the free-flowing life forces in the body. It is also full of trace minerals which, combined with enzymes from raw foods like fruits and vegetables help to build new cells which can extend the life of the body.”

Chocolate May Help with Weight Loss

A chocolate bar processed with hormone-laced milk solids, artificial fats and vats of chemically altered sugar is not slimming. But pure, raw cacao seems to be.

The Science: Cacao seems to diminish appetite, thought to be due to its monoamine oxidase enzyme inhibitors (MAO inhibitors) which allow more serotonin and other neurotransmitters to circulate in the brain. According to Dr. Gabriel Cousens, MAO inhibitors facilitate youth regeneration and rejuvenation, and encourages weight loss naturally.

Chocolate is Bliss

The Science:  “Another reason to love chocolate is the molecule of bliss called Anandamide, from the Sanskrit word Ananda for bliss. This molecule is a cannabinoid neurotransmitter and mimics the endorphins you get when working out,” says Nicole. Cacao contains enzyme inhibitors that decrease our bodies’ ability to breakdown anandamide. This means that anandamide may stick around longer, making us feel good longer, when we eat cacao

Chocolate is Seductive

To really draw out the flavor of chocolate you have to warm it in your mouth, press it up against the palate, slowly allow it to melt, and gently roll it around so all its various tastes can be enjoyed across the landscape of your tongue.

Have you ever tasted Fortunato no. 4? Listen to chocolate farmers and chocolatiers describe their first tasting of this sensuous delight.

Nicole’s Hot Cacao

“Now that you know your favorite food is so good for you, all the more reason to enjoy it,” says Nicole. “Try this yummy, guilt-free hot chocolate recipe: 1 can coconut milk, 1 can water (use the coconut milk can), 2 tbsp Cacao powder, and your sweetener of choice. Add 2 cinnamon sticks and let it simmer on low heat for 15 mins. Enjoy with your loved ones.”

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Happy Valentine’s Day. May you remember that, even though chocolate is delicious and good for you, love requires no person, no element, no thing ~ for love is an energy that eternally abides within.

If you really knew how much love is in you, seeking you and surrounding you, your heart would burst.  So have a cup of hot cacao and sip on that.

Namaste!