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Archive for January, 2015|Monthly archive page

Forcing the Soup

In Mindfulness, Recipe on January 24, 2015 at 3:37 am

“Be a lamp to yourself. Be your own confidence. Hold on to the truth within yourself as to the only truth.” ~ Buddha

coconut red lentil soup

Second time is the charm.

Fueled by dark chocolate coconut haystacks, decaf chai, and the Bon Iver Pandora station, I banged out this soup one afternoon mostly because the light in my kitchen was waning; therefore, my window for decent food photography was closing. That was my first red flag. You know red flags? Those super obvious banners alerting you – but only in retrospect, of course – to the situations, turns, decisions, or people you should have ran from. Well, everyone knows you can’t rush the soup; however, that’s exactly what I was doing. And the soup ended up terrible because I forced it…to be made…well, I forced it into the trash as well.

lentils colander

Split red lentils are really tiny. Like, tiny enough to fit through a colander hole.

Second red flag: attempting to rinse lentils in a colander. Those suckers are tiny. Red flag #3: I didn’t have all the ingredients I needed and was actually considering subbing goji berries for golden raisins. When a friend rushed over with her supply of raisins (who actually has golden raisins on hand?), I falsely thought “this soup is meant to be”. Final red flag: I glanced at stove clock at 5:33pm and realized that, damn it, I’d missed the sunset. I had a pang of regret that grew exponentially after a blizzard of sunset photos stormed my social media feeds.

Why did I continue on despite feeling uneasy and unfocused? I know better. I’m in tune. I’m a yogini. I don’t force things to happen. I allow things to happen. I meditate. I set intentions not goals. OK. That last part is not true and that’s where the problem lies. I had made it a goal to make a new soup every Thursday regardless of whether or not SoupAsana commenced. So…even though I was tired and had a lot scheduled for the following day and had a lot of space in my weekend (where I could make soup!), the specificity of my goal (to Thursdays) forced me to move forward with soup-making against the signs of the universe.

lentil soup - bad

Inedible. In the trash.

Perhaps I am being dramatic. A terrible pot of soup is not such a big loss. But, really, how often have you done this with important things? Like your health, your relationships, your career. We insist on things happening in a certain way, at a particular time, and we set measurable goals to make sure that it all goes down as planned. And then eventually, after enough forcing and ignorance, there’s an injury – physically, emotionally, spiritually – and you just knew it was coming. You always knew. The signs were there. You just didn’t want to see them.

Anyway, it’s just soup. And it’s also a tidy little reminder to heed the nudges of the universe and tuggings of your heart. Your ego is the one making the goals and setting the timelines but your heart can see the future and knows that timing is everything. Follow it.

I made a second attempt at this soup the following day. I tweaked some measurements and ingredients. I was more present. It made all the difference.

1 cup yellow split peas
1 cup red split lentils (masoor dal)
8 cups water
2 cups carrots, cut into rounds
2 TBSP fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced
2 TBSP curry powder
2 TBSP ghee (or butter or olive oil)
8 scallions, only white and light green parts, finely chopped
2/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup tomato paste
1 14oz can coconut milk
4 tsp fine grain sea salt
handful cilantro, chopped

Give the split peas and lentils a good rinse – until they no longer put off murky water – just don’t rinse them in a colander! Place them in an extra-large soup pot, cover with the water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and add the carrot. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the split peas are soft (important to test this as I charged ahead with soup-making and peas were still hard!).

chai and coconut haystacks

Dinner of chai and chocolate on the first night.

Add ghee to a pan over medium heat along with scallions, ginger, and raisins. Saute for about five minutes stirring constantly until everything is greasy and glassy, then add the tomato paste and saute for another couple minutes.

Add the curry powder (the original recipe recommends toasting curry powder. It’s stressful. Don’t do it.) to the tomato paste mixture, mix well, and then add this to the simmering soup along with the coconut milk and salt. Simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes or so (this is your opportunity to make it taste good. Let it simmer. Taste it. Add salt. No texting.)

Enjoy topped with cilantro and yogurt if your curry powder had some kick!

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Sweet Breakfasts

In Nutrition on January 13, 2015 at 9:10 pm
cinnamon sugar grinder

Pretty Little Grinders

It all started with an impulse buy at Whole Foods. That place makes me buy the craziest things that I sooo don’t need but kinda add a bit of joy to my life. I was totally drawn to these grinders of helpful spices combined with “unhealthy” things – aka sugar. I had a major cinnamon-toast addiction as a kid so I was instantly drawn to the cinnamon-brown sugar grinder. Growing up, my parents were so strictly No-Sugar that we didn’t even have ketchup in the house. The famous one-gram-of-sugar Cheerios were acceptable; however, Rice Krispies were banned because they had the nerve to have 2 whole grams of sugar!

fruity breakie

High sugar but also high fiber.

When my parents would sleep in on Saturday mornings, my sisters and I would turn the kitchen upside down looking for that sugar bowl reserved for guests who liked it in their coffee and tea. Upon finding the holy grail we would make cinnamon toast with an entire loaf of bread. First we would spread out all the bread on the counter and meticulously pick out all the walnuts and sunflower seeds – delicious bread for an adult but not when you’re in elementary school. Then we would generously spread Country Crock on each slice – this was the early 80s when butter was still evil and trans fats were celebrated.

The next step was somewhat delicate b/c although we were specifically looking for the sugar high you didn’t want it to taste all grainy and overly sugary. Shaking the cinnamon was tricky too…it didn’t come out evenly and getting a glob of cinnamon in a bite kinda dries your mouth out and ruins the experience. Clearly, we could have used the helpful cinnamon-sugar grinder from Whole Foods. I am pretty sure we arranged the entire loaf of bread on a baking sheet and put it under the oven broiler which is kind of dicey considering I was the oldest and still in elementary school. We were very serious – and efficient – about our cinnamon toast making.

Although I’m a sucker for pretty bottles at Whole Foods, I’m also known to be the sugar police so I shocked myself in bringing home the sugary grinders. Swearing I wouldn’t know what to do with them, it was just an impulse buy, etc., I immediately found two great uses for them at breakfast – ha! I’m not a fan of a sugary breakfast; however, these two recipes don’t actually have much sugar and are balanced with plenty of fat and/or protein to maintain steady blood sugar.

coconut rice porridge

Creamy, crunchy, sweet, salty.

Coconut-Rice Porridge

Cooked white rice (short-grain, white rice works best)

Coconut milk (not canned, try coconut/almond blend)

Chopped almonds – roasted & salted

Sprinkle of cinnamon-sugar or cocoa/sugar/chili

Simmer rice in milk. Add more or less depending on desired consistency. Top with chopped almonds and cinnamon-sugar or cocoa/sugar/chili and anything else really!

Eggy (Grain-Free) Pancakes (makes 8 smallish pancakes)

2 eggseggy pancakes2

1 TBSP almond butter

1 very ripe banana

Sprinkle of cinnamon-sugar or cocoa/sugar/chili

Mash and beat and whip all the ingredients together (except cinnamon sugar). Fry in coconut oil and sprinkle with a bit of cinnamon-sugar or cocoa/sugar/chili on one side before you flip over! You won’t need maple syrup.

Not Yo Mama’s Marinara

In Mindfulness, Nutrition, Recipe on January 10, 2015 at 7:49 pm
marinara - cooking tomatoes

Hurry, make them into marinara before they turn to mush!

Growing up in Alaska gave me this do-it-yourself kind of attitude. You couldn’t just run to the nearest shopping center to get what you (thought you) needed. Add the fact of if you are choosing to live in Alaska, you are most likely quite eccentric; however, also quite resourceful. This lends to the attitude of “why purchase it when you can make it, build it, grow it, kill it – yourself?” As I live now, everything is available for purchase and yet sometimes I still insist on DIY just to prove to myself that I’ve got skills (useful ones, that is).

So I picked a Sunday at the end of the tomato growing season – November here in SoCal (I know you’re jealous) – and dedicated the day to stocking my freezer with tomato sauce. I took an hour break to watch the sunset and I met a girlfriend for lunch but otherwise my day consisted of buying tomatoes, coring and pureeing tomatoes, and boiling and simmering tomatoes. I had to write this blog post standing at my kitchen counter lest the pot of sauce start sticking.

marinara - 30#

How will I get 30# of tomatoes home?

I used a fantastic marinara recipe from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. It’s very herb-y and non-traditional. The first time I used the recipe, I harvested all the tomatoes from my garden at the end of the season and thought I would be able to stock my freezer full of tomato sauce for the whole winter. “No one will starve this winter, family, I have taken care of it!” Like I was Pa Ingalls settling into the The Long Winter. As a child, I really empathized with Laura Ingalls Wilder and re-read that series more than twice during the long, dark Alaskan winters. Previously, my “harvest” yielded about 9 cups of marinara sauce. Clearly, we’d starve if left to our own devices. This time I headed to the La Jolla Open Aire Market for the tomatoes since my garden is currently, um, underutilized right now. And, in my exuberance for this project, I promised quite a few people that I would just hand over some of the sauce when it was done. I am no longer feeling so generous. This was a lot of work and I mean to enjoy it all. These 27 cups of marinara are just too precious.

marinara and sausage

My marinara with a friend’s homemade sausage.

I heart Barbara Kingsolver – like a lot. Like stalker-level. But only in my mind. I don’t write her wacko fan letters or find out where she is vacationing in San Diego. But, like, I kinda want to be her. She’s a scientist and a writer – two things that I like to call myself. We both have degrees in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (hers is a Masters and mine is a Bachelors) so I feel like it’s possible to be even a teensy, weensy bit like her. Her books often focus on the interactions between humans and their environments as well as biodiversity and her writing is smart and insightful with a dry wit. All things I love or want to be. My favorites are: The Poisonwood Bible, Prodigal Summer, and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

The Poisonwood Bible had a whiff of my childhood about it with the missionary parents and all the daughters named after religious figures (check out my sister’s photography) and living in another culture but, luckily, none of the madness and tragedy. Prodigal Summer really spoke to me because of the themes of interconnectedness between all things living whether human animal, wild animal, or plants and the elements on which they all depend. And then there is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. If you thought you were a local foodie, think again. Kingsolver chronicles the year her family lived on their farm and ate only local food whether they raised it themselves or traded with other local farmers. It’s fascinating and funny and discusses food politics, nutrition, and environmental sustainability as well as the practical issues of trying to explain to your children’s friends why bananas are not allowed in your house.

marinara - tomatoes in blender

This is not the best way to puree tomatoes. I switched to a food processor.

So I tried out Barbara’s life for a day and, phew, this was quite the undertaking. It didn’t exactly take me all day as far as hours were concerned but you will definitely need to clear your calendar for the day and have no further objectives other than the process of making tomato sauce. You’ll notice (or maybe not) that this sauce doesn’t have any olive oil in it. The original recipe was meant for canning and adding oil to a canning food is a dangerous liability from a food safety perspective. From a nutritional perspective, fat makes the vitamin A and lycopene in the tomatoes much more accessible to the body for assimilation. I recommend making it as is and then, when you are defrosting and reheating this winter, swirl some olive oil into the pot for added flavor and nutrition.

Family Secret Tomato Sauce (makes 6-7 quarts) from “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver

10 quarts tomato puree (about 30# of tomatoes)

4 large onions, chopped (processed into a soupy foam)

marinara - ready

Ingredients all lined up and ready to go.

1 cup dried basil

1/2 cup honey

4 TBSP dried oregano

3 TBSP salt

2 TBSP ground dried lemon peel

2 TBSP thyme

2 TBSP garlic powder, or more, to taste

2 TBSP dried parsley

2 tsp pepper

2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

marinara - pot

Maxed out sauce pot.

Add pureed tomatoes, onions, all the spices, and honey to a REALLY large pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer on low for 2 to 3 hours until sauce has thickened to your desired consistency. You may need to stir frequently towards the end to avoid burning. Transfer to freezable containers (leave some head space if using glass and make sure sauce is cooled first) and feel good about yourself that you’re stocked with marinara for the long, cold winter.