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.

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.

Happy Thanksgiving + Roasted Vegetables

Have you ever been asked, “How do you prepare a Vegetarian meal? What do you make? Isn’t it hard?”

We get that question a lot. I love it. Because if you stand to the side a bit and take a crooked look, you might notice that nature offers food already pre-packaged, pre-sweetened, prepared and pre-loaded with vitamins, minerals, Omega’s, soluble and insoluble fibers, already on-the-go and ready-to-eat!

You really don’t need to do much. Walk over to a tree. Reach up and receive. Sidle up to a bush, or kneel down to the earth and pick, pull, or pluck. Considering the busy human activity to extract, package and deliver various bits of chemistry that are already uniquely organized in plant food, it really seems a miracle that nature already has it all, everything we need, and with such perfection, intelligence, beauty, elegance, and variety!

I think about that whenever I roast vegetables. Because it is so simple. And so good. The sugars in the vegetables slightly caramelize with the oils, so that lightly salted and spiced, tastes almost like soft, chewy, exotic candy.

~

Did I mention simple?

All you have to do is:

Wash
Spice
Oil
Toss
Roast

It is so easy. Which is why we always include Roasted Vegetables for Thanksgiving dinner ~ when we need it to be delicious, but above all, we need it to be simple.

It is on the menu again this year ~ along with our new “tradition” of Brioche Chestnut Stuffing with a Vegetarian Gravy, and a big colorful bowl of Cranberry Sauce because when you do not add sugar it balances the meal nicely by cutting into the heavy of everything else, encouraging digestion, and sort of living in your body as little bursts of thankfulness because in so many ways they are just SO good for you.

I am also looking forward to trying my Ayurvedic Blogger friend Shruthi’s  Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie Kheer for dessert and A Sweet Spoonful‘s Cranberry Scones for breakfast tomorrow.

Oh yes, there is much to be thankful for!

Autumn’s Bounty: Roasted Root Vegetables

On normal days, when this might be a main course with potatoes, or a grain, I like to crumble fresh rosemary and toss it with the vegetables just out of the oven, so the herb gets a quick blast of heat to open out its bouquet. But with Thanksgiving there will be so many other aromas and flavors, best to keep things simple and spice minimally.

click on recipe to print

As with any of the recips on this Blog, you can make it Vegan by substituting the Ghee with Coconut oil.

 ~

This holiday, I wish you abundance, joy, peace, and a heart full of thanksgiving. If I had a magic wand, I would fill every belly with nourishing food and every heart with nourishing love. May it begin with you.

~~~

Thanks to Katariina Fagering for the first three photos of the Roasted Vegetables at last week’s Sophia Conference Lunch! 

Brioche Stuffing With Chestnuts and Figs

Photo by Michael Nagle for The New York Times

This Sunday we are going to celebrate the opening of our friend’s new Yoga Studio in Old Town Temecula. The studio will be called “Sacred Journey” after the sacred journey of healing our friend experienced in Yoga Teacher Training.

As it is a Potluck, I am bringing a dish that seems to make, foodwise, a sacred journey of its own from Thanksgiving to Christmas. As a “Stuffing,” it keeps Thanksgiving alive ~ after all, why should Thanksgiving, with its aromatic feast and endless gratitude, have to end? But with its redolent chestnuts and figs, it introduces us to the flavors of Christmas.

In London, where I lived for so many years, the dim, foggy streets not only came alive with holiday lights in December but with that distinct old world aroma of chestnuts roasting on an open fire.   Years prior, I lived in Italy, where figs were our cherished Christmas presents.  So this is a recipe that captures my heart as it recalls flavors and dishes and times and places and dear friends from the sacred journey of my own life.

My sister sent me this recipe from the New York Times. I used ghee instead of butter, added golden raisin and upped the amount of figs to a full cup. My family has asked me to make it for Christmas dinner, when I will also add 2/3 cup of cranberries for that great seasonal color and the tart that goes pop in the mouth, as well as 1/3 cup hazelnut pieces for an occasional crunch.

If you don’t eat eggs, use an egg substitute from your local grocer, or look under “Blogroll” on the right for the link to the Vegan Society’s web page for egg alternatives that are easy to make at home.

Thanks to Jennifer and to the NYT, and most of all to Daniel Humm, Executive Chef at Eleven Madison Park, for sharing your recipe.

Brioche Stuffing with Chestnuts and Figs

Chestnuts
Chestnuts

1/2 loaf of brioche
1/2 cup ghee
1/2 cup celery, medium fine dice
1/2 cup fennel, medium fine dice
1/4 cup Fiji apple, medium fine dice
1 cup onion, medium fine dice
1 pound Vegetarian Sausage, finely diced
2/3 cup Glazed Chestnuts, medium fine dice
2/3 cup dried figs, medium fine dice
1/3 cup reduced (syrupy) vegetable stock
2 cups vegetable stock
1 tablespoon salt
2 eggs
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh sage leaves, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh marjoram leaves, chopped
1 pinch garam masala (or allspice)
2 teaspoons ground pepper

Dice brioche into a medium–fine dice and allow to dry in a low oven or overnight at room temperature. Once dry, you will have about 2 cups total.

Melt 1/4 cup ghee in a sauté pan. Sweat the celery, fennel, apple and onion until translucent and soft. (“Sweating” vegetables means slowly cooking them over low heat until soft but not brown.)

In a second sauté pan, melt the remaining ghee and cook sausage gently. Combine the butter and sausage with the diced brioche, celery and onion mixture, chestnuts, figs, reduced stock and stock in a large bowl and toss gently. Season with salt to taste. Gently add eggs and toss to combine. Finish with chopped herbs, spices and pepper.

About to go in ~
About to go in ~

Bake in a 9- by 13-inch baking dish at 350 for 40 minutes or until browned and hot throughout.

~

Enjoy! 

Thanksgiving Revisited

Thanksgiving Dinner

Who doesn’t love Thanksgiving dinner with its feast of flavorful comfort foods?

As a vegetarian I have been experimenting with healthy, delicious ways to update this traditional meal for many years now, without wanting to deviate much from its warm, grounding staples. At the same time, experimentation encourages us to explore the diversity and bounty of this season’s harvest, reminding us, in turn, of the true meaning of the holiday – to give thanks for the abundant nourishment of Nature.

A few delicious favorites ~

Sweet Potato Cloud

Sweet Potato Cloud on the Right of Plate

4 medium sized sweet potatoes
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. ghee
ground cayenne pepper
ground turmeric
ground clove
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1½ cups organic coconut milk
1 tsp. sage, dried or fresh
1 cup broken pecan pieces

Pre-heat the oven to 425. Scrub the sweet potatoes clean and dice into large chunks. They do not need to be peeled.

Mix oil and ghee together with a dash each of cayenne, turmeric and clove in a large bowl. Sprinkle with sea salt and cracked pepper.

Toss the sweet potatoes in the spice mixture to coat thoroughly and and lay them out evenly in a baking dish. Drip any remaining spicy oil over the potatoes in the pan.

Cover the dish with aluminum foil and place in the preheated oven and cook for about 20 minutes. Remove foil and roast, stirring once or twice, for another 20-25 minutes, until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork.

Remove from oven. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. While cooling, spread pecans evenly across a small oven pan and roast at 425 for a few minutes, until just beginning to brown. Remove pecans from oven and allow to cool.

Transfer sweet potatoes back to the large bowl and mash while slowly adding the coconut milk. Season with sage, sea salt and fresh cracked pepper, and stir well.

Toss toasted pecan pieces in the center, garnish with a sprig of fresh sage and serve warm.

Cranberry Chutney

Cranberry Sauce Chutney
Cranberry Sauce with spice!

1 cup dried cranberries
2 tbsp Ghee
½ tsp ginger
½ tsp ground clove
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
½ cup water
1 cup fresh cranberries
½  small apple, cubed into small pieces
1½ tbsp balsamic vinegar
½ tsp grated orange peel ~ optional

Melt the ghee in a saucepan on a low flame. Mix in the clove, cinnamon and nutmeg, cooking for one minute. Stir in dried cranberries until they are thoroughly glazed with ghee.  Add water and bring to a light boil.

Once boiling, stir in fresh cranberries and apple pieces. Reduce the heat to low and cover. Simmer on low flame until all the fruit is soft, about ten minutes. Drizzle the balsamic vinegar over mixture, stir well and allow to simmer, covered, another minute.

Garnish with orange zest and serve warm.

Thanksgiving Harvest Stew

Sophia Lunch #AyurvedicSoup
Thanksgiving Harvest Stew for a crowd

2 tbsp ghee
1 tbsp olive oil
½  tsp. ginger powder
½  tsp. garam masala
1 small yellow onion, chopped fine
3-4 cloves garlic
1 potato, chopped into small pieces
3-4 carrots, diced into bite-size coins
2 celery stalks, diced
1 head cauliflower, bite size pieces
1 lb. french beans, cut in thirds
1 yellow pepper, chopped into small pieces, optional
1 cup vegetable broth
14 ounces organic coconut milk
8 ounces Korma sauce
1 cup fresh cranberries
½ cup pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, or pecan pieces

Clean and prepare all the vegetables. Melt ghee in a large pot over medium low heat. Add olive oil and spices and sauté for one minute. Stir in onion and sauté. Once the onions turn golden, add potato and sauté until its edges begin moving towards translucence. Stir in carrots and celery, and sauté another couple of minutes. Add cauliflower, french beans, tomatoes and yellow pepper. Stir thoroughly to coat vegetables.

Add broth and bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce heat to low for five to ten minutes. Stir in Korma sauce, coconut milk and cranberries. Allow to simmer a few minutes so the flavors merge.

Garnish with nuts or seeds, and serve warm with a fresh baked Rosemary Sage bread.