Expanding Light: Feast of Retreat

I recently returned from a week studying with the eminent, brilliant and surprisingly droll James Kelleher at the Expanding Light Retreat Center in the Sierras.

Serenity

Jyotish in the Sierras

Ananda means bliss, and that it was. Even the meals. Despite being cafeteria style, everything was delicious and divinely digestible. It was perfect autumn comfort: warming, nourishing, strengthening, reassuring.

veg meatballs

Lunch in the Sierras

I didn’t have my camera, nor did the chefs have anything written down, but I had to share these with you – so please forgive the images, they are from my phone. Hopefully you get a sense of it. Forgive too, please, the recipes. The chefs never had amounts – and if they did, it would have been enough to feed an army – the expanding light brigade, of course!

I think you can make sense of it. If not, please leave questions in the comments below, and together we can share our successes.

veggie tofu roast

Ananda Menu

Chef Jake

Chef Jake’s Veggie Roast with Braised Tofu

Brussel Sprouts
Whole Garlic
Onions thick slice
Carrots
Yams
Peas
Safflower Oil
Tamari or soy sauce
Chives
Basil
Onion Granules
Garlic Granules
Black Pepper
Oregano
Tofu
Ghee or coconut oil
Tamari soy sauce

Chop your larger vegetables coarsely. Mix the safflower oil and everything else that follows until well blended. Toss with the vegetables and pour into a casserole dish. Cover and bake at 350 for half an hour. Uncover and bake another half hour.

Meanwhile, as soon as you’ve put the veggies in the oven, slice the tofu into 1” thick pieces. Melt ghee or coconut oil in a sauté pan. Sauté the tofu pieces 3 minutes on each side. Put the tofu in a bowl with tamari or soy sauce and cover. Leave covered half an hour. Add to the roast the last ten minutes it is in the oven before serving.

Zucchini Boats

zucchini boat

Zucchini Boats

Zucchini
Baby Bello Mushrooms
Onion, finely chopped
Garlic, minced
Ghee or olive oil
Pink Salt and Fresh Pepper
Udi’s Gluten-free bread
Walnuts
Eggs (Vegans could use flax and/or psyllium)
Option: bbq sauce, parmesan cheese, mozzarella, nutritional yeast

Slice your zucchini the long way. Scoop out the zucchini. Save the insides. Put your mushrooms in a processor and grind them into little bits. Sauté onions in ghee or olive oil until translucent. Add the garlic and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Simmer for a moment then stir in the zucchini and mushrooms. Meanwhile, break up pieces of Udi’s bread and process with walnuts until finely ground. Drain the vegetable mixture and mix with bread and walnuts. Scoop this mixture into the zucchini slices and place on a baking tray. Chef told me that if he were making this at home, we would drizzle barbecue sauce, or cheese over the top before baking at 375F. Give it about 20 minutes. Pull it out of the oven when the top is a sizzling golden brown. They served it with garlicky mash potatoes, braised chard and the gravy below.

veggie gravy

Veggie Gravy

onion, chopped
safflower oil
garlic, chopped
veggie broth
nutritional yeast
option: for darker color and richer taste: gf tamari

Sauté onions in safflower oil. Once translucent add the garlic, stir and sauté a minute or so. minutes. Add vegetable broth. Puree, bring to a boil, stir in the nutritional yeast and tamari to taste.

Veggie Meatballs

walnut meatballs

Walnut Meatballs

Zucchini filling, left over from making the Zucchini boats
Walnuts, chopped
Egg, just enough to bind
Nutritional Yeast or Mozzarella Cheese, optional

Mix it all together. Shape into balls. Sauté in ghee, or bake until golden on the outside and cook all the way through. Serve with what the Chef called “a classic southern Italian sauce with onions, garlic, tomatoes, lots of basil and oregano, cooked long and slow.”

Met Scott while I was there, who said he knew me from my blog. He works in their kitchen, which I was visiting at that moment to write up the recipes for this blog, which is one more example of the grace of the place.

sunset sierras

Expanding Light is part of Ananda Village, a spiritual community started by Swami Kriyananda, devotee of Paramahansa Yogananda. So everywhere you are there, you are under the gaze of that great Guru, which is itself another name for Jupiter in Sanskrit. Whether it is by the light of the guru, or the ananda of divine embrace, or enjoying a meal prepared by sweet, pure hearted devotees, it is all love. I wish you that eternally.

Breaking Bread When Your Heart is Broken

Sarah Britton's Life Changing Loaf
Sarah Britton’s Life Changing Loaf

Our little village, recently lampooned by James Corden, is enjoying rain today. In fact, we are more than enjoying it. We are all breathing a collective sigh of relief.

This happens every year around this time. We almost hold our breaths for rain. Never more so than this year – after all the fires across our state, after an especially hot summer, after three years of drought – rain is something we celebrate.

life altering loaf

I feel the same thing in my heart. Rainy and grey. Ever since I received a certain email three weeks ago, everything is upside down. The lights are out. I feel cold and soaked. Only there wasn’t a drought, it wasn’t too hot, the only fires were those of love, and this is a rain that doesn’t let up.

So what to do on a rainy, autumn Sunday when you have a broken heart, and you don’t feel like doing or eating anything, but you know you must?

Try out Sarah Britton’s Life-Changing Loaf, of course, and because your life is so altered, alter it according to the ingredients in your pantry, and then call it the Life-Altering Loaf, for times when nothing is what it seemed to be.

life-altering-loaf

The Life-Altering Loaf of Bread, adapted from Sarah Britton’s My New Roots

1 cup gram (also called mung bean flour) or chickpea flour
1 cup sunflower seeds
½ cup flax seeds
½ cup hazelnuts
1/4 c poppy seeds
2 T chia seeds
4 T psyllium seed husks (3 T if using psyllium husk powder)
1 t baking soda
1 t fennel seeds
1 t dried sage
1 t fine grain sea salt
1 T maple syrup
3 T melted coconut oil or ghee
1½ cups water
optional: 1/2 cup raisins

In a loaf pan combine all dry ingredients, stirring well. Whisk maple syrup, oil and water together in a measuring cup. Add this to the dry ingredients and mix well until everything is completely soaked. Let sit out on the counter for at least 2 hours, or all day or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Place loaf pan in the oven on the middle rack, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove bread from loaf pan, place it upside down directly on the rack and bake for another 30-40 minutes. It’s done when it sounds hollow when tapped. Allow it cool completely before slicing (difficult, but important).

Store bread in a tightly sealed container for up to five days. Serve toasted with almond butter, cinnamon and honey for breakfast, your own homemade farmer’s cheese, yogurt or kraut with lunch, or slathered with a favorite nut butter and apple slices bananas for an after-school snack. It is also good with a rainy day soup like this one i wrote about in my very first post ever.

life-altering loaf of bread

If you want to know why this bread is good for you be sure to read Sarah’s post. She is a great writer, photographer, and recipe creator so her blog is very worth a visit. My version swaps out oats for bean flour for even more of a high protein, high fiber, gosh darn this is so good for you kind of comfort food.

My take on why it’s good for you? Because breaking bread is holy. It reminds me that all things break. Bread, hearts, relationships. But that ultimately  all things are shared. Even those breaks. Especially those breaks.

So I invite you to make this, and then break bread with a friend. More than anything I made this bread so I could share it with people I love. Because right now, as much as ever, I am getting by with a lot of help from my friends.

[Oh, and because life is so altered right now, I am switching things up. Instead of my annual Ayurvedic Autumn Cleanse, I am offering 10 on 10 – 10 recipes for your nourishing at-home Autumn Cleanse sent to you on October 10, for free.  That’s next Saturday, so if you sign up now you’ll give yourself time to prepare.]

Thank you always.
Love always.
Namaste! 

Thai Cabbage Noodle Salad

cabbage salad-watermarked

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

Really terrible. 

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

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

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

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

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

thai dressing-watermarked

almond butter dressing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

thai cabbage salad
Thai Cabbage Salad

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

Dressing

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

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

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

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

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

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

tossing salad

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

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

sophia camp

Update

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

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

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

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

Coconut Mango Lime Cobbler

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

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

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

mango cobbler

mango lime coconut cobbler

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

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

vegan cobbler

healthy mango coconut cobbler

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

Filling

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

Topping

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

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

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

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

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

beauteous mango cobbler

cobbler breakfast for Mo

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

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

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

Namaste!

Vegan Sushi

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

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

Picnic Meals-Vegan Sushi

Vegan Sushi-Collard Rolls

Vegan Sushi Roll

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

Vegan Sushi
makes 4 servings

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vegan Sushi

vegan sushi-collard rolls

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

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

raw vegan sushi-aioli dipping sauce

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

Thank you & Namaste!

Mother’s Nourishment: Recipes and Relief

Joshua Tree
Photo: Juliet Charvet for National Geographic

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

What is Shakti?

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

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

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

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

~

Photo: Andrea Bemis, Dishing Up the Dirt

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

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

~

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

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

~

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

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

~

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

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

~

Mother's Day Recipes

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

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

Jai Ma! 

Spring in a Bowl: A Simple Six-piece Salad

Spring Salad

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

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

six ingredient salad

A Simple Six Ingredient Salad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

spring salad

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

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

Nickel Free + Curried Sweet Potato Soup

Morgan holding bowlHello my loves, I was working on this post when I very suddenly had the very good news that my trip to India was on. So now I sit in a cafe on the Ganges, sipping a masala chai, feeling so blessed to be here, and particularly enlivened by a day spent in the company of the most revered (as they say in India) Dr. Vandana Shiva.

This quantum physicist turned ecological warrior has been declared  an environmental hero by TIME magazine. She is powerful and brilliant, yet grounded, kind, and feminine as she passionately, clearly speaks of her mission to restore the world to its natural wholeness and integrity, starting literally from the ground up.

With Vandana Shiva

She is undoubtedly a Durga, informed by the Swaraj and Ahimsa concepts of Gandhi and Indian Vedic culture. It’s as if she is the Divine Mother herself, rising up to protect our earth, our water, our children, our individual health, our global health. “Life itself, in all its systems, is part of an inseparable whole,” she reminds us quoting Chief Seattle, Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”

Today Dr. Shiva spoke of seeds, soil and food. Everything she said resonated, resounded even. In particular and relevant to this post, since being told by my dermatologist that I may have a nickel allergy and therefore to avoid most of the foods that are my usual staple including leafy greens, many vegetables, most of my favorite fruits, as well as seeds, legumes, nuts and grains, I have been thinking quietly about how upside down it is to turn the earth inside out, digging up the ground of our own dear mother to extract metals. Treasure perhaps, useful of course, but ultimately, is it ours to take? Is it worth upsetting the integrity of life itself? Is the short term worth more than the long term?  When we see the damage we are causing on a global scale, is this what we want to give our children and grandchildren?

herbs marked

Over and over, Dr. Vandana spoke of the health risks that are exponentially growing – autism, alzheimers, cancers – because of our food, and the toxins used to grow the genetically modified seeds it is grown from.

I know we need nickel, oil, energy, etc. Of course, it’s impractical to think we would turn back the clocks.  Yet, the numbers speak for themselves – 1 in 10,000 children had autism 30 years ago. Now it’s 1 in 68 according to the CDC.  At these rates, MIT Researchers warn that half of all American children will be autistic by 2025.

Staggering, isn’t it?

I guess what I love most about Dr. Vandana is that she asks us to remember that all life has the right to life, even the plants, soil, seeds, rivers, earth. 

coconut curry sweet potato soup

On a more practical front, the original purpose of this post was to share with you a list of foods to avoid if you have nickel allergy, as well as a list of helpful sites and references I’ve searched out as there is little on the web about it. Finally, since thankfully I can have sweet potato and coconut, I offer you a divine recipe for a hearty, warm lunch or dinner meal.

Here is the list of foods one can eat ~

Blueberries, Coconut, Citrus, White Rice, Eggs, White Fish (have to be careful it isn’t full of mercury or fukushima nuclear waste – choose north atlantic fish), Dairy (only cheese + yogurt for me. if it is not fermented i can’t tolerate it) Zucchini, Cucumber, Sauer Kraut, Sweet Potatoes, Potatoes, Beets, Cilantro, Ginger, Turmeric, Garlic (cooked, never raw), Coffee (add coconut cream and 1 t coconut oil for anti-inflammatory benefits), Blackstrap Molasses, Maple Syrup, Honey, Dijon Mustard, Mayonnaise – ONLY if it does not have soybean or safflower oil. (Sir Kensington, sold at Whole Foods, is the only brand I’ve found, but homemade is most delicious, and fresh!)
curried coconut sweet potato soup
Also, here is what I’ve learned regarding supplements, but please know I am not writing as a doctor and none of this is a prescription for anyone. I am only sharing what I am doing and what seems helpful. Please seek the advice of your (conscious) healthcare provider if you are concerned about food allergies.
*
~ The “experts” say that taking Vitamin C and Iron with meals is helpful. MSM is also said to be beneficial so I take EmerGenC with MSM every morning before breakfast. I also take Zinc tablets to keep the immune system strong.
*
~ Quercetin supplements were suggested and I have noticed it helps. I take 2 a day.
*
~ Zeolite is also known to be a good chelator. I took 1-2  tablets daily for a month.
*
~ Cilantro and Chlorella chelate heavy metals so ideally you will have a teaspoon of every day. I know people say Chlorella should be taken 30 minutes ahead of cilantro. If anyone has that proof, please post the links or send it along. Until then, I believe the body is smarter than that, and will be happy with the two together, or whenever I can remember!
sweet potato soup stamped
Sweet Potato Soup
2 orange Sweet Potatoes
1 T Ghee (or coconut oil)
1 Onion, chopped 2” piece fresh Ginger, thinly sliced and peeled
1 T Curry powder
2 cups Coconut Milk
3 cups Vegetable Broth (low sodium)
juice of half a Lemon
1/2 t pink (himalayan) salt, or to taste
1 T toasted sesame oil
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Lime wedges
 *
Preheat your oven to 475 degrees F. Pierce your sweets a few times with a fork. Place them in a baking pan and then set on a rack in the middle of your oven. Roast until you can pierce with a fork, about 30-40 minutes. Remove and allow to cool.
 *
Melt the ghee in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and ginger, and stir until the onion becomes translucent. Stir in the curry and sauté for 1 minute. Pour in the vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for about 5 minutes.
 *
Remove the skins from the sweet potatoes and cut into bite size chunks. Add to the soup and cook a few minutes to reheat them. Add the coconut milk, and stir well. At this point, you can blend with an immersion blender or in your electric blender. You can also just mash the potatoes a bit with the back of a spoon and enjoy it as a chunky stew. Turn off the heat. Squeeze in a bit of lemon juice to taste and season.
*
Ladle into bowls and drizzle lightly with toasted sesame oil. Garnish with cilantro and a wedge of lime. Dill, basil, chives and thyme each seemed they’d have something to offer this soup, and since I had friends over when I made it, I decided to play with flavors. I chopped up all the herbs and put them out each in their own little bowl so everyone could garnish to their heart’s desire. It’s a delightful color and taste combination.
creamy curried sweet potato soup

 If nickel allergy affects you, you will find more information and research with these links ~

*  this chart of nickel and nickel-free foods is the one my doctor gave me as a printout.
*  these are more extensive lists of foods: nickel in foods and the nickel allergy diet. the lists are somewhat conflicting because it often depends on where the food is grown and what is in the air, water, soil.
* these articles seem to be the most referenced: melisa.org and journal of indian medicine.
* these blogs are helpful: nickel allergy mom and starting a low nickel diet.
* finally, a bit more science on the subject.
*
Remember too, that with a nickel allergy you can’t have anything out of a can – no sparkling water, no coconut water, nothing! And always ask for bottled sparkling water when you go out, because tap water can contain nickel.
 *
Have you heard of nickel allergy? Do you have any kind of food allergy or intolerance? If so, how do you manage it best? I’d love to hear your experiences.
*
As always, let life love you. Enjoy whole foods as an expression of life’s love for you.
Eat whole. Be whole.
Namaste! 

Coconut Nectar + Rose, Saffron, Nutmeg, Lime

nectar of love: Coconut cream with rose, saffron, nutmeg

Ojas. Soma. Bhakti. How do we translate these words, or convey the experience, the deep knowing, that get up and dance urge, the sense of soaring wings lifting you to the sun, the feeling of sailing through light’s orchestral silence?

We think we know what they mean: Ojas. Soma. Bhakti. But we don’t really have words in English to properly translate. These are words not pointing to a concept or an analysis or even something that can be shared by the mind that reasons, but rather to experiences shared by what we might call “the heart” – the place where we are one and where we are all capable of feeling exquisite exaltations, a divine ecstasy; and in that feeling, in utter silence, way out beyond words or word-compiling, we know, we feel it together, we feel deeply connected, and darn it if it doesn’t just make you love everyone and everything because in this place, in this experience, everything is love and it all just sings with light and delight.

Coconut Bliss

You could say that Ojas is the biology of love, that Soma is the principle of love in the world, and that Bhakti is the nectar of divine love in the heart.

But then, it just sounds like more distraction. Better, I think, to translate the words into a feeling, to offer an experience – a food experience, for example.

And that, dear friends, is this. A Coconut Cream you can have for dessert or serve with dessert, or enjoy for breakfast, or even make up as a tonic – a sleep tonic, an anti-anxiety tonic, or even a peace tonic. It’s so good my husband calls it “the Nectar of Love.”

coconut cream

A few notes first: I prefer fresh young coconuts, and now that I have a Coco Jack they are easy and quick to open. You can watch a demonstration here. Some markets will open your coconut for you, so please ask your local. If you do not have fresh coconuts, look for Let’s Do Organic Coconut Cream and follow the instructions, or look for Coconut Cream in a jar (not can) like this one from Tropical Traditions. Just know that the texture may not be as creamy.

Rose water can be purchased from the market, of course, but if you know your roses are organically grown, it is far more wonderful and delicious to make your own. Just boil up some water, then let it cool a minute or two. Meanwhile, put a handful of rose petals in a mug, add a few crystals of coconut sugar, and pour in half to a cup of water. Let it stand for at least fifteen minutes, swirling it every so often. Strain, and drink what you don’t use. Rose water is an excellent tonic.

how to open a coconut + how to make rose tea

coconut manna stamped

The Nectar of Love: Coconut Cream + Rose, Saffron, Nutmeg, Lime
A Potion for Cultivating Bliss

1 c Coconut Water
1 c Coconut Meat
1 T Coconut Manna
1 t Coconut Oil
1-2 t Rose Water
1 Medjool Date
4-5 strands of Saffron
a pinch of Nutmeg, freshly grated
a light dusting of Cinnamon, Cardamom
1 Lime

Once you have your coconut water and meat, or your two cups of cream, put all the ingredients in a high speed blender and mix on high for a minute or two. Taste and adjust spices. If you would like it thinner so it is more of a tonic to sip, add purified water or more coconut water to desired consistency. Pour into your serving glass, and garnish with a slice of lime. It will serve 2-4, if you don’t tuck in first.

For more of a dessert, let it rest in your refrigerator an hour or so where it will thicken up. My friend Wendy gifted us kumquats from her citrus garden, so I added those for winter color. First I cut them open by scoring top to bottom and then marinating them overnight in honey. I added the lime slices to that too, as it makes the rind edible and the honey runny.

It is best served within 12 hours of making, so if you have any left over, enjoy it for breakfast in the morning. It is great with blueberries, and probably also with raspberries, bananas, or peaches.

This will do the work of a Deep Sleep Tonic, and judging by the popularity of this post, it seems the medicinal benefits of love’s nectar is much needed in our world today. I prefer this Coconut Cream as it is more sattvic, but try them both to see which gives you more of the biology of love.

Recipe for Coconut Cream with Blueberries

Bhakti is love for love’s sake.

~Swami Sivananda

Bhakti is of the form of Supreme Love towards God. And it is of the nature of Nectar. By attaining which, human beings become perfect, immortal and fully contented.

~ Narada Bhakti Sutras 

Remember, God, to love us in a way
our souls can taste…

~St Teresa of Avila

rose petals: how to make rose tea

How do you celebrate love?

If you are one who likes chocolate as the taste of love, you will find heavenly and easy recipes here, here, herehere and here. Does smearing chocolate on your skin sound like a way to celebrate? If so, check out natural skin care expert Morgan Andersen’s Chocolate Rose Mask over on our Sophia Camp website.

Today I am celebrating by sharing the gifts of nature’s beauty from Briar Winters at Marble & Milkweed. Briar has agreed to send to one of our readers a divine care package of her Rose & Cardamom Bathing Salts plus her Fleurs + Cacao Tea for sipping while you soak.

rose salts + tea

Then, because I love her work so much, I am going over to Madesmith, the only place where you can find Briar’s Cardamom + Jasmine Butter to purchase this delicious body balm and have it sent direct to a reader as my Valentine’s Day gift.

cardamom jasmine butter

So there are two gifts. All you have to do is comment below so we know you are interested, and two names will be picked randomly. If you are picked, please note that we will need your address, and it will be shared with Briar or Madesmith so they can mail you your care love package. We will do that “behind the scenes,” of course.

Thank you. May you always know that you are Love and you are loved.
Namaste!  

Detox Dal: A Simple Winter Soup

winter detox soupJanuary used to be the hardest month. Back to school, back to work, back to cold, intense urban environments. Now January is this: Warm soups on lovely days. Writing. Researching. Planning. Walks on the beach. Morning prayers with the sunrise. Sitting by the fire in the evening. Meals with my beloved.

January. Slow. Mindful. Deep. Days of hope. Days of white: snow, skies, interior scapes. Days of spiced tea and hot soups.

Detox Dal Soup

This simple winter soup has been our favorite so far. Made with three basic ingredients: split mung bean, carrots and chard, it’s easy, the way January should be.

It’s easy to make, easy to digest, and easy to love.

split mung beans

detox dal on the stove

Be sure your mung beans are split, otherwise it will require soaking and a longer cooking time, and frankly it just never tastes as good. You can find them at any good Asian or Indian store, or you can order them online here.

A Wintry Dal
Serves 4

Ingredients

1 T ghee (be generous)
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 T vata spice mixture (see below)
1 t ginger powder
1 t curry powder
1 c SPLIT mung bean, rinsed and drained
4 c vegetable broth
2 bay leaves
4 small to medium sized carrots, cut into bite-size pieces
1 bunch chard, rinsed and loosely chopped
1 c water
1 T white miso

Seasoning: gf tamari or shoyu, extra virgin olive oil, fresh cracked black pepper
Optional: scallions, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, cilantro, sage leaves

Instructions

Melt your ghee over a medium flame. Sweat the onions, then add the garlic and give it a swirl. Add your spices and swirl again, now for about a minute. Stir in the mung beans. Turn the heat to high, and slowly pour in the vegetable broth. Add the bay leaves. Bring it to a boil, cover and reduce heat.

Allow it to gently boil for about 25 minutes. Add the carrots. Stir and check your liquid levels. It might need another cup of water. If so, add now.

Cook for another 15 minutes and add the chard. Let it sit on top of the soup to steam. Cook until it wilts, about 5-10 more minutes. Stir the chard into the soup. Taste to check if the beans are cooked through. They will be soft if they are done.

When the beans are done, turn off the heat. Remove the bay leaves. Stir in the miso, and mix in well.

Ladle the soup into bowls. Season with tamari or shoyu, and a generous splash of olive oil. Sprinkle with cilantro, chopped scallions, roasted seeds, and, optionally, a toasted sage leaf.

Enjoy!

Vata Spices
click to print

How well do you know your dals? When I was home visiting my mother recently she shared with me this article from the Chicago Tribune which is a great feast of delicious information about legumes, and how best to prepare. It’s worth a read for any travel, culture or culinary lover.

detox dal

This New Year, I have a brand new, wonderful, online course called New Year New You. It’s full of goodies and powerful tools to help you live your very best life, and shine your gorgeous light. So check it out and see if it resonates with you. If so, sign up quick. We begin this weekend.

If you comment below letting me know you are interested, you will be eligible for a 10% discount (even if you’ve already registered!). I’ll pick randomly tomorrow afternoon.

Again, I wish you a Happy New Year. May it be nourishing and bright.

Namaste! 

Dr Hyman wants you to be Pegan. Here’s why.

Sometimes I invite a guest blogger to write for my blog, and once in a while I interview someone for a post. But one thing I’ve never done is reblog. I do share  – all over social media. I share like crazy. I love to celebrate any individual’s wisdom, creativity, and commitment to health ~ and to support conscious community wherever possible. I’ve just never picked up an entire article and shared it here on my blog. 

Until now. Here’s why: When people ask me how I eat, Vegan, Vegetarian, Paleo, what? My answer has long been, “Ayurvedically.” By that I mean, responding to our changing needs according to age, season, circumstance, on a case by case basis. Overall, though, my focus is: no sugar, no processed, high protein, high fiber, healthy fats, whole food, plant based. 

Along comes Dr. Hyman with a name for it – and in turn an entire community of people who also eat this way. Overnight, I went from being a loner to a belonger and I want to share that affirmation, and science, with you.  

Why I am a Pegan – or Paleo-Vegan – and Why You Should Be Too!
by Dr. Mark Hyman

As a doctor, it is my job to figure out the best way to keep my patients healthy. We now know that food is medicine, perhaps the most powerful drug on the planet with the power to cause or cure most disease.  If food is more than just calories, if food is information that controls every aspect of our biology and health, then I better know what to advise people to prevent, treat and even reverse chronic disease.

So the fundamental question of our time, given that the cost of chronic disease caused mostly by what we eat will cost our global economy $47 trillion over the next 20 years and cause over 50 million preventable deaths a year is this:

What should I eat to feel good, lose weight and get and stay healthy?

On the one hand, Lebron James is eating Paleo and the number one tennis player in the world cut out gluten and dairy and went from not winning at all to winning everything in just one year.  But on the other hand, Rick Rockhold completed five Iron Man marathons in seven days on a vegan diet.

The Problem with Nutrition Research

Looking at the research it is easy to get confused. Vegan diet studies show they help with weight loss, reverse diabetes and lower cholesterol.  Paleo diets seem to do the same thing. So should you be shunning animal foods and eating only beans, grains and veggies or should you eat meat and fat without guilt and give up all grains and beans?

Essentially, each camp adheres to their diet with near religious fervor. And each can point to studies validating their point of view.  We call this cherry picking.  After reading dozens of studies on vegan and paleo diets, even I could get confused. But I don’t because I read BETWEEN the lines not just the headlines. I read the methods and analyze the actual data to learn what the studies actually demonstrate.

The problem with nutrition research is that most of it relies on large studies of populations and their dietary patterns obtained mostly through dietary questionnaires or 24-hour dietary recall.  The first study linking saturated fats to heart disease by Ancel Keys1 (and on which 50 years of dietary policy to eat low fat was based) looked at about 30 men from Crete and their previous day’s diet and linked that to the fact they had fewer heart attacks than people from countries that ate more saturated fat. Skimpy evidence at best!  In fact, most of the “evidence” that fat in general and saturated fat in particular is bad for us is being rigorously challenged by better and more specific research.

These type of studies are further complicated because it is very hard to tease out the factors that matter. For example, when Asians move from Asia to the US, they eat more meat and have more heart disease and cancer, but they also consume far more sugar.  So it is the meat or is it the sugar?  Hard to know.   These types of population studies also cannot prove cause and effect, only show correlation. Yet, the media and consumers take it as gospel. We thought dietary cholesterol was bad3 and were told to avoid egg yolks4 at all costs. Turns out they are good for you and have no impact on cholesterol.

Many experimental studies on vegan or paleo diets, which should give more direct evidence of cause and effect often have only small numbers of people in the study, making it hard to draw firm conclusions.  Even worse is that the diets they use for comparison (the control group) are not ideal alternative diets. Comparing a vegan diet of chips and Coke, bagels and pasta to a paleo diet of healthy veggies and grass fed meat won’t be very helpful, nor would comparing a paleo diet of feedlot meat, bologna and no fresh veggies to a whole foods, low glycemic vegan diet.

Also, eating a low fat versus a high fat vegan diet has very different health benefits5. The Eco-Atkins or high fat, high protein, low carb, low glycemic vegan diet performs better for weight loss and cholesterol lowering than a low fat vegan diet that avoids nuts, seeds and avocados.

RD Laing said that “scientists can’t see the way they see, with their way of seeing.”

Why You Should be a Pegan! 

So what’s an eater to do?

I vote for being a Pegan or Paleo-Vegan, which is what I have chosen for myself and recommend for most of my patients. Keep in mind that most of us need to personalize the approach depending on our health conditions, preferences and needs.

What is a Pegan?  Well since I just made it up, I guess it’s up to me to define.

Let’s focus first on what is in common between paleo and vegan (healthy vegan), because there is more that intelligent eating has in common than there are differences. They both focus on real, whole, fresh food that is sustainably raised.

Here are the characteristics of a healthy diet everyone agrees on:

  1. Very low glycemic load – low in sugar, flour and refined carbohydrates of all kinds.
  2. High in vegetables and fruits. The deeper the colors, the more variety, the better. This provides a high phytonutrient content protective against most diseases. (Although the paleo camp recommends lower glycemic fruit such as berries.)
  3. Low in pesticides, antibiotics and hormones and probably no or low GMO foods.
  4. No chemicals, additives, preservatives, dyes, MSG, artificial sweeteners and other “Franken Chemicals” that you would never have in your pantry.
  5. Higher in good quality fats – omega 3 fats for all. And most camps advise good quality fats from olive oil, nuts, seeds and avocados. Although some, such as Drs. Esselstyn and Ornish still advise very low fat diets for heart disease reversal.
  6. Adequate protein for appetite control and muscle synthesis, especially in the elderly.
  7. Ideally organic, local and fresh foods should be the majority of your diet.
  8. If animal products are consumed they should be sustainably raised or grass fed.
  9. If you are eating fish you should choose low mercury6 and low toxin containing fish such as sardines, herring and anchovies or other small fish and avoid tuna, swordfish and Chilean sea bass because of the high mercury load.

Now comes the areas of more controversy

Read the entirety of his article here.

~

The thing I love the most about Ayurveda is that it respects individual differences, which is why I always want to hear from you. What do you find is the best way of eating for your optimal health and enjoyment? What nourishes you?

~

Thanks to Shannon Jones for the photo of radishes from our Ayurveda Cooking Class 2014

Gluten free, Sugar free, No Bake Apple Pecan Pie

no bake apple pie
Two years ago at our Yoga Therapy Training, I served a gluten free, dairy free, no sugar added, homemade apple pie. The recipe was requested. It has taken me these years, but at long last, here, finally, it is.

Unfortunately, when I first came to write it up last month I couldn’t find the recipe. Fortunately, that meant I had to try it a few times before it came right again, and that meant a lot of apple pies this autumn. Yes, we are blessed!

raw-gf-apple-pie

The saying An apple a day… is truer than everApples support your liver to help your body process and releases toxins in our air, water, food – more important now than ever. Apples help clear your colon, also more important than ever – as everyone, even mother earth, needs extra support now in eliminating waste.

Apples are good for your bloodeyes, skin. Apples are cool, so they are Pitta-reducing and anti-inflammatory. They are sweet, so they are Vata-reducing and tonifying – especially when sliced, tossed in fresh lemon juice, and sprinkled with cinnamon, as in this recipe. They are also light enough to be good for Kapha, reducing blood sugar and helping you feel full with less, thanks to so much fabulous fiber.

That makes apples tridoshic, meaning they love everyone, so everyone gets to enjoy this super food, super “free”, super pie!

sweetie apple

Be sure you use your favorite apple. Since they aren’t going to be cooked, they will taste in the pie the way they taste in your hand when you eat straight from the fruit basket. I used “Sweetie” apples, but anything fresh, crunchy and sweet will be good.

For the decoration, I wanted some red so used a Fuji, but a crispy green apple would give a lovely color, too.

apple pecan pie

I added a bit of almond butter to make it an extra high protein, high fiber, high nutritional meal I could have for breakfast, or for the kids as a midday snack. The almond butter makes the filling a bit more caramel-y, but if you feel that is too nutty for you, leave it out. It’s still great.

Also, if you are allergic to nuts you can skip the pecans and just make a crust of dates. Yes, just dates. Or, if it’s safe for you, add a tablespoon of coconut oil, and/or toasted sunflower seeds,

If you want it fully raw, skip the pecan toasting. I’ve done it that way and it works, too. But toasting draws the divine essence from pecans, giving golden, nutty grounding to the crisp, sunburst of the apple.

glutenfree apple pie

Easy, No Bake Apple Pecan Pie

Pie Crust:

2 c Pecans
10 Medjool Dates, pits removed
1 T Coconut Oil
A hearty pinch of Himalayan Salt
A pinch of Cinnamon
A dash Nutmeg

Pie Filling:

6 Apples
6 Medjool Dates, seeds removed
1 Lemon, juiced
2 T Almond Butter, optional
1 T Raw Honey, also optional
1 hefty pinch of Himalayan Salt
1 hearty dash of Cinnamon
1 light dusting of Cardamom, optional
1/4 c Chia Seeds

To make the crust:

Toast the pecans until they are very lightly brown. Put them aside. In your electric blender, macerate the dates. Add the coconut oil and spices and mix. Toss in the pecans and pulse lightly three times, just enough to break up and integrate with the dates, but careful not to turn this into pecan butter.

Press the crust into a pie dish (mine is 9.5″). Cover with a plate facing up so the slight bowl of the plate presses into the crust and so that the crust is entirely covered. Place in your refrigerator if you have a few hours before filling, or into your freezer if you don’t.

To make the filling: 

Again, start with the dates. Blend on high speed until they are completely mashed. Juice your lemon and set aside 1 tablespoon for later. Add the lemon juice, almond butter honey and spices to the dates and blend well. Slice your apples and add. Blend until the mixture starts resembling a very chunky apple sauce. Add the chia seeds. Pulse a few times to blend thoroughly. Pour this mixture onto the pie crust. Spread evenly. Cover (I turn the plate that was sitting on the crust over and use to cover) and place in your fridge. Allow to set at least four hours.

apple pie

Garnish: 

This doesn’t need a topping, but if you like the apple rose on top, just core an apple and slice very, very thin. To keep the slices from browning as you slice, put each slice as you cut into a bowl with that remaining lemon juice. Once all the pieces are cut and in the bowl, sprinkle a dash or two of cinnamon and toss. The set each piece, one by one, in an overlapping circle around the outer edge. Continue making smaller circles towards the middle until the pie is covered. Then set a pecan or a few thin slices of lemon rind in the very center.

This is so simple and so quick: apart from the 4 hours in the refrigerator to let the chia seeds do their work, you can make this start-to-finish in 15 minutes.

apple pie

I guess you could call this a trick on a treat, because it seems like dessert, yet it’s delightfully good for you. Let me know if you try it, and any variations you enjoy.

being silly at the bay: napping after a yoga therapy training picnic
being silly at the bay :: protecting from the sun :: napping after a yoga therapy training picnic

What sort of tricks or treats are you doing this hallowed e’en?

Persian Cucumber Salad

persian cucumber saladSummer is finishing up with a fury here in San Diego, so I made a big heat-reducing salad to go with Friday’s picnic of Thai noodles and curry.  Inspiration came from Stephanie Weaver, of Recipe Renovator, who invited me for lunch last week and served, along with a colorful grated beet salad, a fresh green salad of zucchini, snap beans and cilantro. It was refreshing, and a delicious reminder of how lucky I am to have food blogger friends!

I hope you won’t be put off by the extra ingredients in this. It makes for a complete meal in itself, and once your potatoes are cooked, comes together rather quickly. Take your time, though, preparing the vegetables. Small, bite-sized pieces are the key to elegance and forkability.

potato

The value of slowing down to prepare your meals cannot be overstated. It becomes its own kind of meditation, a  hearth-loving version of Chop wood, carry water…  We might even call it, Chop food, boil water? 

Enjoy.

Persian Cucumber Salad
Serves 6-8 

10-12 purple majesty and fingerling potatoes (substitute with sweet potato for paleo)
2 quarts water
1 T rock salt (pink or grey salt)
4 medium sized persian cucumbers
2 large handfuls fresh green beans, ends removed
1 hefty handful arugula
1/2 head of romaine lettuce
1 bunch spring onions
1 cup cooked red quinoa
1 bunch dill
1 copious handful cilantro
4-5 leaves basil
1 lime
1 t apple cider vinegar
2 T extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

In a large pot, combine salt, water, and potatoes and bring to a boil. Cook until the potatoes are fork-tender, approximately 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the pot and drain. Let it sit in your colander for 5 minutes. Refrigerate.

Chop the rest of the vegetables into small bite-sized pieces, except the arugula which can be tossed in as is. Layer into a large salad bowl and stir in the quinoa. Once your potatoes are cool, slice, quarter, and add them to your salad. Juice the lime and sprinkle with the apple cider vinegar over your salad. Lightly toss. Finely chop the herbs and add. Finally, drizzle in your olive oil and gently fluff. Taste and adjust your oil-vinegar-lime balance. Season with salt and pepper.

summer salad
Made it again, sans quinoa, for our Yoga Teacher Training Graduation Celebration Sunday.

This is such good medicine that I’ll be featuring it in our upcoming Autumn Cleanse, which I want to offer you as a giveaway. Just comment below to be included, and we will randomly choose one person on Friday, in time for our free Introductory Call this Saturday.

Thanks to Vegenista Devi Melissa Martin for asking if the recipe is on my blog, inspring me to post it. Congratulations to Kelli and Bridget who will receive the Happy Belly and Hot Belly books offered in last week’s post

Namaste!

P.S.  Congratulations to Jenny Melford who receives the Autumn Cleanse! Thank you friends.

Nadya’s Happy Belly Kale + Book

lacinato kale

Ah… it feels good to turn the corner on summer and find welcome moments to settle into these quiet, waning days. As I take time to be with today’s present and consider tomorrow’s possibility, I thought I’d share with you a bit of what’s stirring.

  1. My Autumn Ayurvedic Cleanse. Time for a reset? The Autumn Equinox is a perfect time to align with nature and restore for balance, wellness and peace. Learn more and register here.

  2. Our upcoming Yoga Therapy Training. This is perhaps my favorite of our Deep Yoga Trainings, because it is so intimate, connected, and empowering. The best part of all is cooking a healing lunch together on our final day.

  3. Bhakti Fest: Music, Yoga, Ayurvedis – it’s a bliss fest. I love visiting friends at Organic India + Bhakti Chai + Imlak’eshThe OM Collection + Ancient Organics whose Rose Lassi impressed me so much last year I blogged about it here. We just got back, and I have a great post for you for next week.

  4. Dr. Suhas’ new book The Hot Belly Diet: A 30-Day Ayurvedic Plan to Reset Your Metabolism, Lose Weight and Restore your Body’s Natural Balance to Heal Itself. I have a copy for one of my readers. Will it be you? I hope so. Suhas is an original! Details below.

  5. Nadya Andreeva’s book, Happy Belly: A Woman’s Guide to Feeling Vibrant, Light and Balanced: Nadya is a blossoming Ayurvedi, whose book Happy Belly is a resource for women to improve digestive health, prevent bloating and eliminate discomfort.

Nadya has generously offered us the recipe for her Happy Belly Kale Salad, as well as a free copy of her book for one lucky winner. Keep reading: details are also below.

kale salad

On her blog, Nadya celebrates the power of kale with a post, “What you don’t know about kale but should!” Writes Nadya, “I used to consider kale hard to digest for my belly but once I learned how to make it properly it is one of my favorite things. It’s a fantastic source of vitamins and minerals and tastes great in various dishes!”

This is a delicious salad, and for those of you who like me, found this summer to be especially hot, you might find this helps your interior self cool down and flow with ease into balance.

Nadya’s Happy Belly Kale Salad
by Nadya Andreeva, author of The Happy Belly
Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 4 handfuls of kale
  • 1 avocado
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts or sunflower seeds
  • 1 diced and sauteed onion
  • 1 large grated carrot
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • a handful of goji berries (optional)

Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon tamari (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • 1-2 tablespoons water, or until the desired consistency is reached

Method

Add all the ingredients for the dressing except the water to a small bowl and season with salt and pepper.  Stir until combined before adding a tablespoon of water at a time until you get the right consistency.  Remember you still want it to maintain a fairly thick consistency to keep the salad nice and creamy.  I recommend adding roughly 2 tablespoons. Add the kale to a mixing bowl removing any large stalks and pour the dressing over.  Then using your hands (by far the best way to break down the kale) rub the dressing into it, squeezing it so it breaks down and becomes easier to eat. Massaging kale helps to break it down and make it easier to digest.

Chop the avocado into bite size pieces and add to the salad along with sauteed onions, cooked quinoa, goji berries, pine nuts or sunflower seeds, and grated carrot.  Toss the whole thing and enjoy!

My note: This is more delicious than you can imagine, and only took ten minutes to pull together. I did pour hot water on the gojis and let them soak 5 minutes before draining and tossing in. As for quantity – I’d say it serves closer to 3-4. 

kale quinoa salad

What makes your belly hot or happy? Let us know below, and we will put your name in the hat to win a signed copy of Dr. Suhas’s Hot Belly or Nadya’s Happy Belly. Let me know which you prefer.

~

Thank you Nadya. Thank you Suhas. Thank you dear friends. Namaste! 

Roses + Chocolate for Ma

#anti-aging browniesMother
Lola Ridge

Your love was like moonlight
turning harsh things to beauty,
so that little wry souls
reflecting each other obliquely
as in cracked mirrors . . .
beheld in your luminous spirit
their own reflection,
transfigured as in a shining stream,
and loved you for what they are not.

You are less an image in my mind
than a luster
I see you in gleams
pale as star-light on a gray wall . . .
evanescent as the reflection of a white swan
shimmering in broken water.

#paleobrownies

#paleobrownie

Getting Close
Victoria Redel

Because my mother loved pocketbooks
I come alive at the opening click or close of a metal clasp.

And sometimes, unexpectedly, a faux crocodile handle makes me weep.

Breathy clearing of throat, a smooth arm, heels on pavement, she lingers, sound tattoos.

I go to the thrift store to feel for bobby pins caught in the pocket seam
of a camel hair coat.

I hinge a satin handbag in the crease of my arm. I buy a little change purse with its
curled and fitted snap.

My mother bought this for me. This was my mother’s.

I buy and then I buy and then, another day, I buy something else.

In Paris she had a dog, Bijou, and when they fled Paris in 1942 they left the dog behind.

When my mother died on February 9, 1983, she left me.

Now, thirty years later and I am exactly her age.

I tell my husband I will probably die by the end of today and all day he says, Are you
getting close, Sweetheart? And late in the afternoon, he asks if he should buy enough filet of sole for two.

From a blue velvet clutch I take out a mirror and behold my lips in the small rectangle.

Put on something nice.
Let him splurge and take you out for dinner, my mother whispers

on the glass.

wow

instagram #brownies

What I Learned From My Mother
by Julia Kasdorf

I learned from my mother how to love
the living, to have plenty of vases on hand
in case you have to rush to the hospital
with peonies cut from the lawn, black ants
still stuck to the buds. I learned to save jars
large enough to hold fruit salad for a whole
grieving household, to cube home-canned pears
and peaches, to slice through maroon grape skins
and flick out the sexual seeds with a knife point.
I learned to attend viewings even if I didn’t know
the deceased, to press the moist hands
of the living, to look in their eyes and offer
sympathy, as though I understood loss even then.
I learned that whatever we say means nothing,
what anyone will remember is that we came.
I learned to believe I had the power to ease
awful pains materially like an angel.
Like a doctor, I learned to create
from another’s suffering my own usefulness, and once
you know how to do this, you can never refuse.
To every house you enter, you must offer
healing: a chocolate cake you baked yourself,
the blessing of your voice, your chaste touch.

no bake brownies

Rosy Raw Brownies
Recipe Ayurvedically adapted from Julie Morris, who has a video demonstrating it here

Makes
1 dozen

Ingredients
1 cup walnuts
1 cup medjool dates, pitted (about 8)
1/2 cup raw cacao
1 teaspoon rose water
pinch pink salt
dash cinnamon
dash cardamom
Optional: 1 T cacao nibs, rose petals (dried or fresh), cinnamon

*
Method

Using an electric blender, grind your walnuts to a powder. Add the dates one at a time, blending well before adding the next. Mix in the cacao, then the rose water, finally the spices.

The mixture should be moist. If you pick it up between two fingers and it easily falls apart, add another bit of rose water. Be careful of two things: you don’t want to over-water, and you don’t want to over-blend or the oils are released and it becomes more like fudge than brownie.

Spread the mixture into a small baking pan. Press down with the back of a spoon or a spatula. Press evenly and firmly so the brownie will set. Optionally, you can press cacao nibs gently into the top, dust with cinnamon, or sprinkle with rose petals. The nibs give it a burst of bitter crunch, and the rose petals make it as beautiful as your Mom.

anti-aging brownies

Mother’s Day
David Young

        —for my children

I see her doing something simple, paying bills,
or leafing through a magazine or book,
and wish that I could say, and she could hear,

that now I start to understand her love
for all of us, the fullness of it.

It burns there in the past, beyond my reach,
a modest lamp.

roses

To mothers everywhere, thank you for the gripping power and delicate tending of your unflinching devotion.
Your love makes the world go round.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Jai Ma!

Chocolate Pasta

#chocolate pastaIn a recent class we taught on Ayurveda for families, we made a “chocolate butter” (as in peanut or almond butter) demonstrating one of many examples of healthy snacks for children. With some of that chocolate butter remaining, Valentine’s Day approaching, and the inspiration of children still in my heart, I thought I’d get playful and try out the chocolate butter as a sauce for pasta.

#Valentine's Day Pasta

Thus emerged this Chocolate Pasta, a delight both easy and quick to make. I think it took all of ten minutes.

The sauce is made with cacao, so has all the health benefits of dark chocolate. If you are making this for adults, use cacao nibs. It gives an accent of bitter that really works. But if you are making this for children, cacao powder will better integrate the flavors.

#chocolate pasta

You could serve this as a side, or add your choice of protein and make it a one dish meal. I added fresh green peas as my protein, mixing them in at the very end so they would hold their fresh aliveness.

chocolate #pasta

#chocolatepasta

Once served, you can dress it up however you like. I added chives, but chopped spring onion would be great for that burst of pungency. I also like toasted or roasted sunflower seeds, but you could garnish with toasted pecans, walnuts, almonds, or pepitas. It needs that nutty bite. Best of all, I sprinkled cacao nibs over each serving. It ‘s more than a theme note, its gives the pasta a rich contrast in color, texture and taste.

VDay Chocolate Pasta

I think it worked, but would love to know what you think.

Chocolate Pasta
Serves 3-4

2 quarts water
1 cube veg broth
1 T sesame oil
1 fistful soba noodles
1-2 cups seasonal greens, shredded
1/2 t ginger powder
1/4 t garlic powder
1/8 t red pepper (the slightly milder aleppo is my preference)
gf tamari
toasted or roasted sunflower seeds
sesame seeds
chives or spring onions, chopped
red pepper flakes, optional

Chocolate Sauce
2 T Almond Butter
3 T raw cacao (powder or nibs)
1 small pear, cored and chopped
1 T Raw Honey (or 2 Medjool Dates)
pinch pink salt
pinch cinnamon
pinch cardamom

Start with the chocolate sauce. Put all the ingredients together in an electric blender and mix until well integrated and smooth. If you are using cacao nibs rather than powder be sure to mix until the nibs break down, but don’t worry if some remain solid. It will give a nice texture to the sauce when added to the pasta.

Meanwhile, boil 2 quarts of water in a saucepan. Chop up your greens and set aside. When the water comes to a boil, add the cube of vegetable broth. Stir until it dissolves, then spoon in the sesame oil. Stir in the ginger and garlic powders and red pepper. Add the soba noodles and your greens. Cook for 4-5 minutes. Turn off the heat. Gently spoon in the chocolate sauce, stirring lightly so you don’t break the pasta. Season with tamari. Taste, and a pinch of pink salt, if needed.

Chocolate Pasta VDay

Since there are at least six good reasons to celebrate with chocolate, for dessert we have many choices ~ there is this amazing Chocolate Pâté, this extraordinary Flourless Chocolate Cake, or this Chocolate Pudding, all to remind us to celebrate love not just today, but every day.

Happy Valentine’s Day!