Wednesday, March 22, 2017

CARDAMOM + PEAR SMOOTHIE with vanilla, nutmeg, maca and ashwagandha root

So. This recipe. It comes directly from my own need for an easy breakfast that would carry me through the morning as well as combat my vata-crazy in this seasonal shift. Something light but substantial. Easy to digest but filling. Something that wouldn't leave me filling chilled inside and out. And something with cardamom. Because, well, I straight up love the stuff.

It's good friends. Really, really good.

Allow me a few notes about some of the lesser-known ingredients:

Ashwagandha root is a revered herb in Ayurveda medicine [ancient sister science to yoga] known as a tonic for longevity and vitality. Tonics are substances that stimulate energy [chi] in a beautifully balanced, sustainable way. It's specifically used where an imbalance of vata is found in the body [for example, feelings of cold or dryness, nervousness or anxiety]. I've found it to be helpful in deepening my sleep, allowing for more rest.

Maca is similar to ashwagandha and prized for its adaptogenic and nutritive [nourishing] properties. An adaptogen improves resistence to stress and supports an overall balance within the body.

Lucuma, made from the fruit of the lucuma tree, is known for both it's caramel-like taste as well as it's anti-inflammatory affect in wound healing. It provides 14 essential trace minerals.


[THE RECIPE]

2 cups milk of choice [Tigernut milk is delicious! Scroll to bottom of link to find instructions for making your own.]
1/2 cup stewed pears*
4 dates, pitted and soaked**
1 teaspoon ashwagandha root powder
1 teaspoon maca powder
1 teaspoon lucuma powder
1/8 teaspoon cardamom powder
1/2 vanilla bean [use both seeds and peel]

*To make stewed pears: peel and cut two medium to large pears into small chunks. Place in a small saucepan, add 1/3 cup of water, pinch of sea salt and a drizzle of maple syrup [optional]. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat and then reduce heat to medium-low or a soft simmer. Cook down to about one cup of mixture or until it reduces by half. Set aside to cool. 

**To soak dates: place dates in medium glass jar or bowl and cover with boiling water. Let soak for 10 - 15 minutes. Either drink water or strain and save for other recipes.

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend on high until very smooth. Smoothie with be more liquid than thick. If a thicker mixture is desired, add fresh or frozen chunks of bananas [note: this will cool the over all affect of the smoothie and is not advisable during winter months or when vata dosha is prominent] or half an avocado. 

[BONUS RECIPE! CARDAMOM + PEAR SMOOTHIE CHIA PUDDING]

Mix 2 cups of smoothie mixture with 4 tablespoons of chia seeds. Stir well, let stand for 10 minutes, and then stir again. Refrigerate for an hour or until mixture reaches pudding-like consistency. 




Sunday, February 5, 2017

WINTER "JUICE": STEAMED CARROT + APPLE[SAUCE] + GINGER + TURMERIC



It's amusing to me that the most popular time for juicing is January when a host of people undertake "detoxing" and virtually zero fresh stuff grows. Call me crazy but raw fruits and vegetables don't sound good, especially concentrated in liquid form, when the temperatures dip below freezing. The habitual internal cold I commonly sport [and maladies that come with it] is only exasperated by frigid weather which means I take seriously the idea of warming in winter.

Cooking foods, using warming herbs [like ginger and cinnamon], and choosing produce specifically designed for the winter months [root veggies and winter squash] goes along way in maintaining a comfortable balance within.

That being said, I love carrot juice with ginger and apple. The blend of flavors, the spicy bite of ginger, the pretty color - everything about it makes me happy.

Yesterday I saw the sun. For the entire day. It's been, what's felt like months, since I've seen a sunrise, felt the warmth of rays, turned by body to meet its brightness. Yesterday I saw it and immediately dove head first into spring fever. In February. The beginning of February. Today brought me back to reality but the longing for spring still had me craving something juicy.

Sometimes when we sit with boundaries, challenge, and disappointment and allow rather than trying to alleviate the discomfort we generate space for creativity and truly tasty things can happen.

This is that happening, the gift of such allowing.

Similar to the juice I love yet cooked and warm with food kept in whole form, this "juice" is my winter sun. Well, a stand in at least.

Shine on, friends.

[THE RECIPE]
Serves 2

1 heaping cup of carrots cut into 1-inch chunks [peels on if organic]
1 1-inch piece of fresh ginger [peel on if organic]
1 1-inch piece of fresh turmeric [peel on if organic]
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon of Korma powder [see recipe below]
3/4 teaspoon of ashwagandha powder [optional]
juice from 1/2 a fresh lemon squeezed [about 1 tablespoon]
2 cups of milk of choice [I love homemade Tigernut milk, scroll to bottom of link for instructions]
1 tablespoon of maple syrup or 4 - 6 pitted dates, soaked*
ground cinnamon, garnish

*To soak dates: place dates in medium glass jar or bowl and cover with boiling water. Let soak for 10 - 15 minutes. Reserve water to be used in recipe.

Steam carrots until just soft when you poke them with a fork. I recommend making a larger batch so that they are readily available throughout the week. I chopped and steamed eight carrots, measured one cups worth, and refrigerated the remaining in a glass container.

Place all ingredients in a high powered blender and blend until bright orange and very smooth. Divide between two glasses and garnish with a large pinch of ground cinnamon.

Drink smoothie slightly warm [if you've used freshly steamed carrots] or at room temperature.

Korma Powder Recipe: 
Recipe from Eat, Taste, Heal

1 T. whole coriander seeds
1 T. whole cumin seeds
1 T. whole fennel seeds
1 T. whole mustard seeds
1 T. whole fenugreek seeds
1 T. whole cardamom seeds
1 T. poppy seeds
1 T. whole pepper seeds
1 T. ground cinnamon
1 T. ground ginger
1 T. ground turmeric
1 tsp. ground cloves

Place all Korma powder ingredients in a spice grinder or Vitamix dry container. Blend on high until a very fine powder is achieved. Transfer to an glass container with tight-fitting lid. Store in a cool, dark place.



  

Saturday, February 4, 2017

VEGAN LENTIL AND BEAN SOUP with miso



It's been cold for the last few days. Really cold. At least to me. I've found the best way to cure the cold is to warm from the inside out using food, beverage in the form of warming teas or ginger water, moxa [a Traditional Chinese Medicine therapy] and yoga. Soups are my friend these days and this, my latest creation. Allowing my body to lead, I follow my tongue when creating the recipes found here. May sound kooky but when it comes to needs, my body knows best.

A bit crazy to admit, this is my first foray into using miso and I'm hooked. A food I've wanted to try for quite sometime, this seemed like a great way to give it a go. Miso is a fermented soy bean paste with a strong salty flavor. As with most foods, the fermentation process increases digestibility thus making the nutrients contained within more available to our digestive process. It happens to be a fantastic substitute for meat-based broths.

I use here and am partial to Eden Foods for a few reasons: they are a company local to my state and have impressive environmental standards, have a great fermentation process, cans are free of BPA, and Eden is one of the only store-bought brands of beans I can digest without uncomfortable side effects. You can find this brand at your local health food store and possibly your general grocery store or through Vitacost [a discounted healthy food online ordering option - sign up using this link and you'll receive $10 off your first order].

Enjoy!

[THE RECIPE]

Soak the lentils the night before by placing measured lentils in a glass bowl. Cover the lentils with water so that the liquid rises about an inch over the lentils. Add a tablespoon or two of apple cider vinegar. Cover with a lid or a plate and let soak over night or for 8 hours. After 8 hours, drain lentils and rinse well. Set aside.

Prepare vegetables [carrots, celery, mushrooms, ginger, garlic, onions, and turmeric] by chopping and mincing prior to making the soup.

3 cups chopped carrots [4 - 6 whole]
3 cups chopped celery [1 small bunch]
1 cup finely chopped shitake mushrooms
1 medium - large onion, finely chopped
4 - 6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 tablespoon fresh turmeric, minced
3 - 4 tablespoons avocado oil
1 tablespoon each: dried thyme and oregano, ground cumin and coriander, Herbamore [optional]
2 - 4 teaspoons of sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 whole bay leaf
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes [no added salt]
4 cups green lentils, pre-soaked
1 15-oz can adzuki beans [Eden brand]
1 15-oz can cannellini beans [Eden brand]
8 cups water
2 tablespoons miso paste [Eden brand]
1/2 bag frozen leafy greens [chard, kale, spinach]

Heat the avocado oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. When the oil is warm, add the onions, garlic and mushrooms to the pot. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes [stirring frequently], add ginger and turmeric, and continue to cook the mixture for another 3 - 5 minutes or until onions become soft.

Add carrots and celery, herbs, salt and pepper. Cook for another 5 - 7 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add tomatoes, lentils and water to the pot and increase the heat to high. Once the water boils, reduce the heat to a strong simmer and add the beans. Stir well to combine all the ingredients.

Let soup simmer for 20 - 30 minutes or until lentils become soft.

Blend the about 1/3 of the soup in either a blender or using an immersion blender.

Add miso paste and leafy greens. Taste and add salt if needed. Reduce heat to low for 3 - 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes prior to serving.



Tuesday, January 24, 2017

TURKEY LOAF with mashed sweet potatoes and sauteed kale

This is one of my very favorite winter meals. It's my take on an old-time crowd-pleaser, is my style of comfort food and happens to be hearty meal that doesn't require a large amount of effort. Enjoy!

[THE RECIPE]

For the Meatloaf:

1 lb pasture-raised ground turkey
1 small onion, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped [optional]
juice from 1/2 a lemon [appx. 1 tablespoon]
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon maple syrup
3/4 teaspoon Herbamare [or 1/2 teaspoon onion powder + 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder]
1/2 teaspoon ground rosemary
1/4 teaspoon chaga mushroom powder [optional]
Ketchup [optional]

Mix all ingredients [except Ketchup if you are using] in a medium size, glass bowl. Pour mixture into a glass bread baking dish and press down firmly. Squeeze ketchup over flattened loaf if desired.

Bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes to allow the juices to soak back in a bit.

For the Mashed Sweet Potatoes:

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 medium white potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 small celery root, peeled and cubed
ghee
sea salt

Place potatoes and celery root in a medium pan. Fill with water so water comes about 1-inch above the veggies. Add a pinch of sea salt and bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium [or to simmer] and cook until veggies are very tender when poked with a fork.

Remove from heat and drain water. Add 2 - 3 large tablespoons of ghee and sea salt to taste. Blend with mixer and crush with potato masher. Add more ghee or salt as needed.

For the Kale:

4 cups kale leaves, shredded
1 tablespoon ghee
granulated garlic
sea salt

Melt ghee over medium-high heat in large cast iron or stainless steel skillet. Carefully add kale and sprinkle with garlic and salt. Mix to coat kale in ghee and seasoning. Stir frequently until kale has wilted, softened, and turned a bright shade of green. Remove from heat and serve immediately.





Sunday, January 22, 2017

FENNEL STEAMED RICE


We are big time rice lovers in the VKlok household. Rice with butter or ghee and always with a pinch of salt; sometimes with broccoli and sunflower seeds and dressing; rice with stir-fry, rice in soup, in winter bowls and alongside dahlrisotto [and more risotto], dolma and kitchari . Lots of rice!

What I have yet to reveal here is the dappling I do in combining herbs with rice. Fennel, cumin, cardamom, celery seed, cinnamon, cloves - they all can turn basic rice into something a bit more magical, changing both the depth of flavor and over all energy. Each spice adds it's own, unique dimension and nutritional qualities. 

Take cardamom for example. Outside of it being my favorite flavor, cardamom is warming [hello winter!] and helps dispel damp, phlegm, mucus, and cold from the body among many other things. Add 2 - 3 whole cardamom pods to your rice while cooking, and boom!, magic. 

Here I use fennel which improves digestibility as well as calms an upset stomach [stomach flu anyone?]. It's a warming herb that aides the bladder, kidneys, spleen, stomach and liver. Good for indigestion, gas, and kicking out excessive mucus in the lungs. 

So next time you make rice, try adding a bit of your favorite spice. Use the whole seed rather than ground. No need to remove herbs like fennel, celery seed, and cumin but I would recommend composting cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves prior to serving.

Bon app├ętit! 

[THE RECIPE]

2 cups uncooked organic basmati rice [or rice of choice]
1 1/2 cups water
1 tablespooon whole fennel seed
1 - 2 tablespoons extra virgin, cold-pressed olive or avocado oil
sea salt

In a small skillet, heat fennel seeds over medium heat to toast. Stir constantly until seeds become fragrant and just begin to brown. Immediately remove from heat and set aside.

Pour rice into a fine mesh strainer. Over sink, run cold water through the rice until water runs clear. Let all of the water drain completely. 

Place rice in a medium size saucepan and add water, a pinch of sea salt, and toasted fennel seeds. Bring water to boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce temperature to low and cover to steam until rice is tender and water is gone. This may take anywhere from ten to thirty minutes depending on the variety of rice you use. Turn off heat and let sit covered for 10 minutes.

Drizzle oil over rice and use a fork to fluff. Add sea salt to taste. 





CHASING CLOUDS, EXPOSING EXPECATION




Expectations. We've grown up on a healthy dose of them haven't we?

Sometimes I wonder if expectations are the key to our undoing. That maybe expectations lead to more suffering than healing, more separation than unity, more pain than peace. That maybe expectations are costing us far more than they're worth.

As children, we're expected to act a certain way, fill a certain spot in our family, play a certain role. Meeting such expectations is met with reward. Failing is met with shame. For me this took the shape of perfectionism. The more I succeeded, the more I strove to be "good", the more I was covered with acclamation and praise. Apparently working really hard to be perfect makes for a really good kid, student, family member, employee, and on and on. Expectations were piled on like bricks, one perfect rectangle stacked on top of the other until I was trapped inside. This created a really strong, tall fortress.

Walls I continue dismantling to this day.

Maybe you were expected to be perfect or maybe you found yourself put in the place of trouble maker, the mischievous one, the funny kid, the fat kid [I'm so sorry], the athlete, the musical one, you fill in the blank.

And then we live into it. We create our lives around it.

We raise our kids from this voice.

For me, perfect led to sick. For the greater part of my life I charged ahead with the perfect flag as my guide. I worked to design the perfect building, find the perfect diet, introduce food to my new baby in the perfect way, parent and feed my kids perfectly, keep the house a perfect sort of clean, practice a pose perfectly - keep up, never stop, push, chase the perfect. This pursuit kept me so occupied, every warning sign my body so kindly provided went unnoticed or ignored until it had to scream to get my attention.

The irony is, perfect is an illusion. Expectations a mirage. Kind of like shapes in the clouds. You can see them and fully believe that cloud is a dragon. You can do everything possible to convince yourself it's true, but it's still very much a cloud. And in a moment it may transform into a bunny or turtle or fish or dissipate completely - the entire time actually being a collection of moisture in the atmosphere.

It seems so silly and yet most of us live out of this place. We chase and push and work ourselves sick. We eat believing this is who we are. We workout thinking there actually is an ideal. We crack jokes to keep people laughing, hoping they don't see the "other side". We self-destruct because, well, it's expected. Or for any number of reasons, spurred on by the voices loudly clanging around in our head, we stay imprisoned.

But what would happen if you took one expectation and set it aside. Maybe you begin with your kids. Is there an expectation you have for them you could test living without? Or maybe you try it on your spouse or your friends? Are you expecting them to show up in a way they simply can't?

My youngest child has a way of expressing herself that comes on with strength and intensity. This is generally followed by a sense of deep shame equal in force. She has big feelings and needs to express them immediately. My first instinct is to react just as intensely, demanding she doesn't talk to me that way, making sure she knows how wrong that is. However, by releasing the expectation for her to act a certain way, I'm able to see her as she is - a child that needs to be heard and understood. So I let her react and then I hold her and let her cry and then, when I feel her relax in my arms, I tell her I hear her and believe her and understand how she feels. We talk about words she could use to express herself in a way I can understand and that won't be hurtful or unkind. Overtime she's been able to use these words and her intensity has come down a notch or two. Not because we expected it out of her but because she's needing that intensity less and less. More importantly, she's being given the space to show up honestly with what's inside of her, use her own unique voice, and can trust she's okay and still lovable.

But it had to begin with me releasing how I thought she should be [an expectation I was living out of from my own childhood] and instead hold this sacred space for her to grow in authenticity.

Ultimately, sustainable change comes from within. It comes from recognizing that the voices you've taken on as your own are not truly your voice. They may be the voices of your parents or grandparents or boss or partner but they are not your authentic, genuine voice. Once you become aware of the difference you can begin to lean in and listen.

For me this has come through meditation, yoga, and work with teachers from varying backgrounds and expertise. It's also come from being in the garden, the woods, and on the shore. From watching my kids play and listening to their giggles. It's come from slowing down and chasing less. From creating space in my house, my relationships, and my life.

And from choosing this every day.

Waking up with the intention to live well [not perfectly] this day I've been given. Going to bed releasing the guilt and shame and disappointment I may carry and covering myself with grace, knowing I did the best I could with what I have.

May you find a way to release an expectation, even the smallest of one. May you trust you are enough. And may you live from a space that flows freely from the goodness that lies within. 













Friday, January 13, 2017

I listened to a speech by Meryl Streep the other day. Maybe you heard it too. In it she challenged the group of people she was speaking to not some things become normal.

Yesterday I listened to a podcast that detailed out four Jewish words. I'm not Jewish but what strikes me about the tradition is the emphasis on remembering. Remember your time in slavery. Remember the great exodus. Remember, remember, remember. Many of their rituals are steeped in this call to remember. In fact many religions worldwide have rituals created to remember and guides for living that provide boundaries to keep us repeating disasters from the past.

I think we're living in a time where we need to be reminded to remember. We have all the tools necessary to easily forget: denial, media, busyness, work, adventure, travel, food, movies, shopping, gossip. You name, we have it. There isn't much call to remember.

Things become normal. Quickly.

We become numb. Quickly.

Things that may have been shocking, revolting, humiliating, and offensive just one year ago are now "the way things are" or "how he/she is" and "that's just what they say or how they do it" or "they're just crazy".

So this year, in 2017, my challenge to us all is to remember.

Remember, there was a people group who traveled across the ocean in hopes for freedom. And they're part of our family tree.

Remember, some of those same people who risked their lives for freedom later enslaved the lives of others.

Remember, it tore a country apart.

Remember, we made it through but we're still healing.

Remember, there was a time when two drinking fountains existed.

Remember, there was a back of the bus and a front of the bus. People who could sit and people who had to stand.

Remember, if we're human our birthright is dignity and respect.

Remember, there was a time when women didn't vote. Or have a place in an office, or science, or most any other profession.

Remember, we're still working to create that space.

Remember if it's created, it probably wasn't by you which means it's a gift.

Remember freedom isn't given - it's earned through hard work and cost.

Remember, the people we admire most turned to love and forgiveness. The times in history we most regret were plagued with anger and violence, hatred and division.

Remember, hatred isn't normal. Putting people down isn't normal. Words laced with arrogance and intolerance and lack of compassion aren't normal. Violence isn't normal. Racism isn't normal.

They may seem normal. They're not.

Put on your armor and fight this - not each other.

Because if this becomes normal - if hatred and intolerance and treating anything or anyone with less dignity then their birthright or created Spirit demands - if this becomes acceptable and we become numb, then it becomes life.

Don't let it be normal.

For the love of God, this nation, your children, this earth, your neighbors, humanity, yourself - don't let it become normal.

Remember. Remember. Remember.

Namaste, friends.