Monday, April 30, 2012

bliss food: three recipes that make me feel good

Here are several recipes from Kitchen Table Friends this past week. I've been cooking with a lot of barley in the kitchen. Its a grain that makes me feel great.

 I satisfy my sweet tooth with these sugar free, dairy free, vegan and still delicious

Friday, April 27, 2012

every practice, every day

I have reminded myself this week to enjoy my yoga practice. What can sometimes feel like an early morning obligation never really is. Its all in how I approach it. Am I arriving with an openness to whatever comes my way? Or have I already resigned myself to failure and dismay?

This  morning before our led Primary Series we made a mantra to Ganesh.

I am reminded of these words from my trip to India: Every practice should be blissful practice.

And so I am using this to set the tone for my practice, and hoping it pours over into the rest of my day. 

om gam ganapataye namaha

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

found bliss: once I went to Italy

A friend sent me a text over Italian food reminding me that some 7 years ago we took a trip to Florence, Italy.

I had nearly forgotten. Funny what a little cannelloni and mobile messaging can do.

I dug out an old shoebox of photographs from the corner, and found this.

Grey skies, far off places, and a cheap film camera. Proof that I was there. 

This photo doesn't say much on its own, but for me it opened an old file drawer of memories.

Monday, April 23, 2012

lilac monday

Lilacs might be my favorite. (Or geraniums are my favorite, I never can decide!)

They are characteristic of a turning point in spring; once these bloom we are well on our way towards May, mother's day, and blissful blossoms everywhere.

Its the smell that really gets me. The scent reminds me of growing up on the farm, riding the school bus with a fresh cut lilac bouquet wrapped in wet paper towels for my 1st grade teacher, and later on of the spring I fell in love with the man who would eventually be my husband. And just the smell of spring and growing and warmth and soil and new things all around.

On this rainy spring afternoon I am thankful to have these lilacs filling my living space with their floral reminders of past times, even as I look forward to the spring to come.

Was that too dear? These are what I really wanted to share with you (maybe you have your own memories):

Friday, April 20, 2012

six spring cleanse tips

I'm wrapping up my spring cleanse this week. I journaled, I walked more, I did yoga, I ate good food, and I took extra time for self-care. As well as working and doing laundry and all those other things that have to do with living.

My cleanse is a special time for me to focus attention on myself and my habits. Now I've never done a juice fast or a super cleanse. Once I tried an apple fast and only ate apples for 2 days and that was a terrible idea! These days I cleanse seasonally according to Ayurveda, which for me is always an enriching and grounding experience, full of delicious, seasonal meals. I'm able to reset and reconnect to the way good nutrition serves my body and my mind. I won't go into all the details of how a cleanse like this works, I have an Ayurvedic teacher who guides me through the whole process!

I have had a few readers write to me and ask if I have any tips for taking a little spring detox for themselves. I do, actually! I'd like to share 6 spring detox tips which have helped me, things which are good for anyone to try out for a few days or a week. Or longer if you really want to make a change to your lifestyle.

These things have made a noticeable difference in my life; from the way my body functions, to the workings of my mind, and in how I manage my energy levels throughout the day. It even follows through to my relationships and interactions with others. I'm not a doctor or a health expert. This is all based on my own experiential knowledge. Every body's different!

Six Spring Cleanse Tips

1. Start your day with lemon and warm water.

Make this the first thing you drink in the morning, instead of coffee! It serves as a natural detox for the liver, and will help you digest your food better throughout the day.

You can also add a little honey to your mug of warm water and lemon, especially if you are feeling congested from the spring weather.

2. Cut out the wheat from your diet.

This means no flour, bread, pasta, all those things we eat a lot of to fill up, and often make us feel bloated and gross.

Eat whole grains instead! Barley, millet and quinoa make great grain choices for spring. Quinoa makes a great breakfast food. Mix up a barley and vegetable salad with fresh herbs and olive oil.

Other common allergens you can experiment with omitting from your diet are soy and dairy.

3. Give up refined sugar.

Its taxing on the system in so many ways. Use honey as your only sweetener for a few days. Or try maple syrup.

If you have a sweet tooth like mine and the thought of giving up sugar seems impossible, just try it for one day. Then maybe two or three. Its good to give the body a break from processing refined sugar. And it will still be there waiting for you. If you still want it!

I love sweet things, but I try to make refined sugar a special occasion, not a daily affair.

4. Swap your coffeepot for a teapot. 

Cut out the caffeine! Okay okay, this may be a serious undertaking for some folks. You could try black tea. Or step it down to green tea. Only two cups. Or one. Eventually the goal is a nice cup of caffeine free herbal tea.

I do love the whole experience of drinking a cup of coffee, the aroma, the foamy milk, the whole culture around coffee drinking. But switching it up helps me to re-examine how caffeine effects my mind and my body.

When I do have a cup of Joe again, I can enjoy the effects without them running the show for me.

5. Stock up on apples! 

As well as lots of seasonal vegetables like asparagus, beets, kale, mustard greens, radishes and peas. Apples and beets are excellent foods to support cleansing, and moving over to a more vegetable based diet is beneficial in so many ways.

Eat lots of fruit. Fill your plate with steamed veggies, throw in some whole grains, natural organic oils and herbs and spices and you'll add some spring to your step in no time!

This is also an opportunity to go meatless for awhile. You don't have to become vegetarian, just try it for a few days.

6.  Stick to a schedule. 

Eat three meals a day at regular intervals, allowing about four hours between each meal for digesting.

Make lunch the biggest meal of the day. Try not to snack. Have a pick-me-up cup of herbal ginger tea instead. If you do snack take a moment to ask yourself why. Are you hungry? Or are you bored or stressed out?

Sitting down to eat a full meal 3 times a day will help to make snacking unnecessary. And the break between meals will give your digestion time to keep up with the work it has to do everyday!


Try one, or two, or all of these things and have your own mini-cleanse for springtime and let me know how it goes!

Remember to be reasonable with yourself, incorporating these changes into your daily life as it currently is is the best way to make a lasting shift in your habits and health.  I still love a good snack, sometimes a sugary one, with a cup of coffee. Though now I know it is just an option, not a way of life.

To give credit where credit is due, everything I've ever learned about cleansing came from my Ayurvedic teacher, Kate O'Donnell. She does one-on-one consulting for seasonal cleansing and other Ayurvedic treatments. If you'd like to read more about Ayurvedic cleansing here's a great article about Fall detox from Yoga Journal.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

pink hyacinth

Remember the creature from middle earth, the mystery spring bulb peeping up from my front yard a few weeks ago?

Turns out, its a sweet smelling pink hyacinth.

Say hello.

Monday, April 16, 2012

the sea

Last week I made a list of habits which inspire me (yes, some habits can be good). One of those habits is walking. So over the weekend, my husband and I took a long walk at Singing Beach.

Living in the city, absorbed in my life and routines, its easy to forget that we live in a city on the coast. So with intention we set out for the North shore on Saturday morning.

Something about seamless horizons and ever constant ocean tides makes me let go of all the little dramas of daily life. And walking the length of a beach and back again draws an effortless union of mind, body and landscape, thoughts entering the same ebb and flow as the tide.

Friday, April 13, 2012

spring cleanse food: test kitchen

Yesterday I had a lunch date / photoshoot with Kate O'Donnell of Ayurveda Boston. Kate brought over some veggies, and we made ourselves a little spring cleanse test kitchen. 

In the spirit of the test kitchen, we improvised. Though I do appreciate a well-documented recipe, sometimes the spirit of cooking requires throwing in a little of this and that, and testing it as you go. So in the spirit of Kate's cooking style ("Recipes are for sissies!") this post will be a bit more improvisational.

Kate brought over  beautiful bunch of asparagus to try out a cream of asparagus soup. But first we steamed a few green shoots to enjoy simply, with a little crushed pepper, salt, and squeeze of lemon.

I tried my hand at making the asparagus soup. I boiled the asparagus in some vegetable broth for a few minutes, added salt, then blended in some mung bean sprouts with my hand stick blender. The soup was still a little watery so I added a handful of sunflower seeds and blended again. This made a nice creamy texture.

It was not too bad, however I think I overdid it a bit on the salt. Next time I'll use more sparingly but hey, that's the spirit of the test kitchen!

While we were prepping and cooking food, we also had a little snack. Rice cakes with miso paste and a generous helping of mashed avocado.

Kate was at work on her vietnamese inspired noodle bowl. She brought over some rice noodles ("Be sure to take a photo of what it says on the package!").

She prepped some carrots, ginger and coriander. The carrots and ginger went into the pot with water and the noodles. We also added some of the sprouted mung beans. In the last minute of cooking she added one star anise pod for a little spice. In our bowls we seasoned the soup with cilantro, fresh squeezed lime, ground pepper and some Bragg's Amino seasoning (tamari sauce probably would have been ideal here, but we didn't have any in our test kitchen). I still say this dish was a success!

See what you can cook up in your own "test kitchen" experimenting with grains and vegetables in simple combinations, while avoiding wheat products (bread, pasta and flour) as well as dairy, meat and sugar. Try for a few days and you'll have your very own mini spring detox.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

spring cleanse food: i heart beets.

I heart beets. Beets detox the liver, stimulate the lymph fluids, and balance the body's ph by reducing blood acidity. They also carry many nutrients to the plate. What I love most about beets are their rich, dark and earthy flavor.

I have two cleanse friendly beet recipes to share with you today. Get excited about getting your daily beet!

Beet Salad with Lemon & Mint
makes 1 serving

1 beet, peeled and grated
1/4 of a lemon, juiced
1 sprig of mint
1 Tbsp sunflower seeds
coarse salt to taste

Mix grated beet and lemon juice together in small bowl. Tear the mint leaves into small pieces by hand and add to the beet mixture. Toast sunflower seeds in a hot pan for 2-4 minutes. Add seeds and coarse salt and mix again. Keeps in the fridge, travels well.


This second recipe is for a beet and carrot juice. Forget about the juicer, you can make this in your blender.

Beet & Carrot Blender Juice
1/2 a peeled beet, sliced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup apple juice
1 cup filtered water

Add all ingredients to your blender; blend well. Drink as is, or pour it through your fine mesh sieve (see photo below) using the back of a spoon to press the rest of the liquid through the sieve. 

#bliss #beets

follow your bliss

One of the yoga students gave me an envelope this morning. It sat just next to my mat as I finished my ashtanga yoga practice. I opened it in the locker room afterwards... isn't it just perfect!

Follow your bliss.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

spring cleanse food: ginger banana breakfast shake

This banana shake is quick to make and tides me over on those mornings when I get home from a long yoga practice with a raging appetite that won't wait for me to cook a hot breakfast.

Ginger Banana Breakfast Shake

1 ripe banana
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
1 cup rice milk
1 tsp raw honey
1/4 tsp cardamom

Blend all ingredients on medium speed until smooth. Drink right away (this banana smoothie doesn't travel well - it will turn brown!)

spring cleanse food: creamy pea soup

I wouldn't get through a cleanse without the charming avocado.

This is an easy to make creamy green soup. I came up with it last spring when I was utterly baffled at how to make a cream of pea soup without cream. So I subbed an avocado for the dairy, and I'll never have it with cream again! One tip, if you're cleansing, check to see that the veggie broth you are using does not contain gluten. Sometimes the cubes contain wheat gluten. If you're not sure, boil up some veggies and make your own broth!

Creamy Pea Soup with Avocado
serves 2

2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup frozen peas
1 avocado
a handful of fresh basil (or use mint leaves, or a sprig of thyme)

In a small saucepan, bring the soup to a boil. Add the peas and simmer for 5 minutes. Add this to a blender with the avocado (skin and stone removed) and fresh herbs. Blend until smooth. (Be sure to leave the lid ajar or cover with a cloth when blending hot liquid, or it will explode!) Garnish with herbs and season with salt and freshly cracked pepper.

Kitchen tool tip: I use a handstick blender to blend hot soups and cereals right in the pot.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

spring cleanse

I'm beginning my spring cleanse, a yearly ritual under the guidance of my ayurvedic teacher Kate O'Donnell. This afternoon she sent this little gem to my inbox; The Ayurvedic definition of health: 
One who is established in Self, who has balanced doshas, properly formed tissues, proper elimination of waste, well functioning bodily processes, and whose mind, soul, and senses are full of bliss, is called a healthy person.
- Sushruta Samhita, translated by Dr Vasant Lad.
I'll be sharing recipes and other thoughts from my ayurvedic spring cleanse as the days pass. Come back and visit.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

bliss food: blackberry coconut smoothie

Here's a simple smoothie treat I whipped up over the weekend. I had some leftover blackberries in the freezer and blended them into this lovely violet smoothie. Prettier than an easter egg, I think!

Blackberry Coconut Smoothie

1 handful frozen blackberries
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup water
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
2 Tbsp chia seeds, soaked for 5 minutes
1 Tbsp raw honey

Add to your blender and blend on medium speed. Sip slowly, and enjoy.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

found bliss: travel postcards

I love epic and lengthy intercontinental travel adventures, but sometimes a little weekend getaway is just what the doctor ordered. Somehow the whole process of travel allows me to reset; sleeping in a different bed, eating foods prepared by others, giving up my itinerary to the bus or train company. I think travel has a similar effect on all those who engage in a regular bout of wanderlust.

While in Brooklyn last weekend I found these vintage travel postcards in a well-curated second-hand shop in Williamsburg. These documents of past travels helped me set the tone for my own.

"Flight smooth. Life leisurely in Rome. Have done plenty of sightseeing. More to come.
Am writing on train enroute to Vienna; hence, shaky penmanship."
To Ruth in the Bronx, from Helen.
Postmark illegible.

"We'll never catch up to ourselves, but we're loving these two countries. Weather cool, but fine - fruit trees in bloom." To Betty in Pennsylvania, from Bela & Priscilla.
Dated 3/18, postmark illegible.

"We leave most reluctantly tomorrow after a perfect week here. Hope you have had a good vacation."
To Mr. & Mrs. S., from Betty & Dick.
Postmarked August 6, 1960.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

blissful blossoms

I'm back from DC, and though the cherry blossoms were all over and done with by the time I got there these pink tree blossoms made my day.